by Dan Strull
You walk into an office, armed with knowledge of the industry tools, ready to tell the customer exactly what they need. You’ve found the perfect solution! The presentation goes exactly as planned, you highlight a great feature, a feature you think is perfect for this customer, and you scan the decision maker’s face. You’re surprised by the look of total disinterest. What went wrong?
Too often, experts in the field want to share the latest and greatest with their customers without taking their customers’ thought process into account. It is hard to recognize that what is important to you, may not be important to them. A great question to pose is:
What Values Drive Decisions at Your Company?
Don’t be alarmed if there is a pause after you ask that question. When asked about their values, most people answer thoughtfully and truly consider what is important to them. Some answers will surprise you, some won’t. As you can see on the infographic (click to enlarge), there are many values that can drive company purchasing decisions. Having a conversation about these values and ultimately creating a purchasing formula is a great way to exceed customer needs.
How to create a purchasing formula
- Ask customers what values drive decisions
- Based on percentages, have the customer assign a numerical percentage to each value
- Review and present options that fit the product line you represent
Let’s consider the fictional Law Office of Brother and Brother. When asked about their values they said:
- We need to keep our customers’ information secure
- We have to correctly account for the work we do on each case
- We want to be as efficient as possible
- We use a specific software for client management and want easy integration of our files
- We create a lot of content for meetings and presentations
Now we ask them to assign a percentage to each point. See the breakdown below.
Now you are armed and ready to create the perfect solution for your customer. You can design your proposal to reflect their needs specifically.
As time goes on, you will be able to see trends in different vertical markets and common percentages assigned to certain values.
Why is a Purchasing Formula a Great Sales Tool?
Yes, a purchasing formula is a sales tool, but it is effective because it starts a conversation. Too often we ask the wrong questions and even then, we don’t listen to the answer. Asking what values drive your business is also open ended. A question that requires a “yes” or “no” answer is impersonal and limits your understanding of what your customer truly wants and needs. However, it’s also crucial to note that when you ask an open-ended question, you listen to the answer. A great way to check if you are listening is to verify you heard the customer correctly. Granted, much of this “listening” may be done through e-mail conversation. Regardless, reiterating what the customer wants is a key point for positive communication.
Let’s go back to our customer.
You’ve asked them to assign a percentage value to theoretical values that drive their purchasing decisions.
To refresh: they ranked security as 60 percent, accounting 15 percent, efficiency 5 percent, software 5 percent and presentation content 15 percent.
Given this information, you now have an opportunity to prove your listening skills.
Here are some responses that prove you understand what they are looking for while also learning more about their needs:
- This is a great distribution. As we create your custom office technology solution, I can highlight features that reflect your needs. Many security solutions within this industry come standard with your multi-function printer and software, but require some sort of management. There are also many third-party tools that are available. What are your current IT practices for security?
- Some of these rated at a value of 5 percent; is it possible to eliminate them entirely? This could bring costs down. Also, when faced with the possibility of not having these features, does it change the value you will give them?
- There are several different types of finishers that you can customize to create effective documents for presentations. What is most important about the look of your presentation? Colors? Binding type? What are the key elements you like about the presentations you create? What would you improve about the way the documents are printed? Are you able to easily transfer your presentation from a digital to paper format?
By asking these questions, you’ve now possibly opened up opportunities for managed services or perhaps a higher grade of machine. You also are positioning yourself to be a partner over a one-time sale. You are a part of their goals, their vision, their success.
Using these tactics, I doubt you’ll see disinterest from a decision maker again.
Dan Strull joined Xerox Corporation in 1988 after graduating from USC with a B.S. in Business Administration. He has been part of the office technology solutions industry ever since, releasing a full product offering in 2015. In 1999, Dan started Copier Headquarters (CHQS). One year later, the main office was moved from Tarzana to Westlake Village. The office that began with two employees and a few customers has grown into a thriving business, filling customers’ needs and forming long-lasting business relationships. In 2014, he established a new headquarters location in Woodland Hills, CA. Visit www.CHQS.com, follow @CHQSinc or connect at https://www.linkedin.com/in/dstrull/.