Sales is a very interesting profession. It may not require a specific type of person, but I think it requires a specific type of mind-set. It has been shown that people more readily buy from people that they trust. You have to fully believe in and be committed to what you are selling in order to gain that customer trust. You must be the first to be convinced of what you are selling, before you have any kind of a chance of convincing a customer. If not, you have a tendency to come off as an archetypal used-car salesperson, and no one seems to trust them.
There was some research done some time ago that showed that there actually was a “smell of fear” that could occur. When scared the body does emit chemicals that that can be sensed by others. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/3545435/The-smell-of-fear-is-real-claim-scientists.html)
I think that there probably also exists a “smell of insincerity”. Just as it may be possible to sense fear in others, it is probably also possible to sense insincerity in others. And for a sales person, insincerity is probably the worst thing for a customer to sense. There is that trust thing again.
That means that the first person that a sales person must convince of the benefit of the product or service that they are selling is themselves.
Having been in sales I can vouch for the fact that it is difficult enough to sell anything in the face of competition, let alone sell a product that you are not fully convinced of or believe in. And if you don’t fully believe in what you are selling, you will come across as insincere. And as I said, like fear customers can sense insincerity.
So, why am I going into all this discussion regarding sincerity and trust, and whether or not a sales person has convinced themselves that they believe in the benefit of the product or service that they are selling? There are a couple of reasons. The first is as I said good sales people are convinced of the benefit of their product or service. This is a good thing.
The second is that just because the salesperson is convinced of the benefit of the product or service they are selling, does not mean that the customer will be convinced of the value.
First, let’s do a few definitions. Today’s source will be the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Definition of benefit: Something that produces good or helpful results or effects or that promotes well-being (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/benefit)
Definition of value: The monetary worth of something (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/value)
So, while the first step in a successful sales process is convincing the sales person (or sales team) of the benefit of a product or service, the second step is convincing the customer that the benefit of the product or service is at least worth the cost required to obtain it. That would mean that the monetary worth of the benefit is greater than the amount that they are paying for it. This is the value.
Too many times I have heard and seen sales people who have been convinced of the benefit, and who have communicated this benefit to the customer, believe that their job is then done. This point in the sales process is usually denoted by when the salesperson utters the phrase:
“They have got to buy.”
This phrase is usually accompanied by qualifiers along the lines of:
“The customer’s competition is doing…” or
“The market is moving or responding…” or
“The technology is ready…”
These are all non-commercial, or non-value related reasons as to why a customer should make a positive buying decision. Let me illustrate with an example:
Let’s say you are looking to buy a new car. You have your own set of reasons for wanting a new car. Perhaps your old car is worn out. Perhaps you have decided you now need a sedan instead of a coupe. What would your response be if you heard the following when you went to the car dealership:
“All of your neighbors are buying exotic sports cars.”
car market is moving toward and responding to exotic sports cars.”
“The technology associated with exotic sports cars is the best and highest available.”
I’m guessing that unless you were going to the dealership with a specific interest in buying an exotic sports car, it really wouldn’t mean that much to you, and depending on the approach and ferocity of the sales person, it might actually dissuade you from buying anything from that dealership.
Yet it is an approach that many marketing people and teams create for their goods and services, and it is belief that many sales people and teams seem to adopt.
The point I am making is that no customer has to do anything. Just like the car buyer in the example above doesn’t “have” to buy a car. (My guess is that they used a perfectly viable car to get to the dealership in the first place.) Most customers are looking for something that they deem, using their specific product priorities, to be better than what they currently have.
However, the “better” or the benefit of the new product or service buying decision is still only half of the Cost – Benefit equation, which results in value. Just as exotic sports cars may be able to go twice as fast as other cars, there may be question regarding their value if they cost ten times as much as those other cars.
There will be a market segment that is interested in going twice as fast as everyone else. These will be the customers that will look at the twice as fast for ten times as much value equation and find it acceptable. But just because this segment sees the value does not mean that the rest of the car buying market will as well. That is why there seem to be so few high-speed exotic sports cars on the road.
It is very risky to extrapolate market niche applications into market wide acceptance.
With most products, it is usually technology and its evolution, that drives new products into the market. The idea that the new technology can create greater benefits can be a significant market force. But just like the new car replacement question, new technology must replace and supplant the existing technology in the market.
This means that there (usually) already exists a viable product and technology in the market. The new technology must create a greater benefit at a price point that makes sense for the customer, or they will not make the positive new buying decision.
This is not the case for “new” product-technologies with no existing capability or analog. Examples of this would be items such as Ford’s Model T (replacing the horse), Sony’s Walkman (possibly replacing the boom box – now there is an old phrase), Apple’s iPod (replacing the Walkman), or more recently Cellular Phones (replacing radio phones). These are products that created new markets, but once created they followed the technology evolution path with a good example being the iPod’s displacement of the Walkman as a personal music listening platform.
Much has been written about this technology evolution-replacement-benefit relationship. Roy Amara was an American researcher, scientist, futurist and president of the Institute for the Future best known for coining Amara’s law on the effect of technology. He coined what has become known as Amara’s Law. It goes:
“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Amara)
This law has become known as the basis for what has been called the “hype cycle”, as coined by the Gartner Group, to represent the maturity, adoption, and social application of specific technologies. The hype cycle provides a graphical and conceptual presentation of the maturity of emerging technologies…. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle) It is depicted as follows:
Circling back around to sales people and their selling of products, it would seem that they are the first group to go through the Hype Cycle since they are the first group that must be “sold” on the product or service before it hits the market. They are the first to see the benefits and experience inflated expectations. But since they are selling instead of buying, that is all they can truly define as they do not initially have good information on the relative costs and values of purchase in the customer value equation.
Unless it is a new market defining product, all defined benefits are “relative”. That means that the existing product in the market already has established a baseline of customer benefits. Each new iteration or generation of the product (hopefully) brings incremental benefits. The value equation for each customer is the balancing of the incremental benefits of the new product versus the incremental cost of obtaining it.
Sometimes the value of the benefit outweighs its cost and buying occurs. Sometimes it does not. Regardless, it is a very rare instance where a customer “has” to buy a product.
With this in mind, I would suggest that most buying decisions can probably be delayed by all customers for an extended period without their experiencing much if any deterioration in their market position. In today’s economically uncertain business environment, I would not be surprised if significant purchases of any kind are delayed, even if only for a little while. This may be due to the realization by customers that in today’s environment they do not have to buy every iteration of new technology to remain competitive.
I suspect that I too will probably be delaying on my desire to buy a new car in the near future as well, mainly because right now I don’t have to buy one.