Estimated Lesson Time: 6 minutes
Paul and Fido live together in a big apartment with many carpets. Fido is a young mongrel that tends to shed more hair in a week than most other dogs do in a year. Paul has given up trying to clean the carpets with his existing vacuum, since it does not pick up a majority of the dog hair, and begins his quest to find a vacuum that will solve his problem.
Paul’s first stop is “Vacuum World,” where they appear to have a large selection at reasonable prices. He is approached by a salesperson who asks the type of vacuum he is looking for, and his price range. The salesperson begins to go over the technical specifications of the vacuums that would “fit his needs.” Paul is confused and leaves.
Paul then stops at “Vacuum Planet,” where the selection and prices appear to be comparable to “Vacuum World.” Once again, he is approached by a salesperson who asks the same general questions about Paul’s requirements. However, this salesperson is wise enough to know that Paul probably does not care about how many amps the vacuum is, or the fact the belt is made from a solid core of an advanced U/V resistant formulation. The salesperson sells the benefits of the vacuum: how easy it is to put away, how quiet it is, and how powerful it is. Paul is tempted to buy, but still is not comfortable. He thanks the salesperson for her time, and moves on.
Paul’s next stop is at “Vacuum Earth,” where he notices that the selection is not as large, but the prices are still decent. He is approached by a salesperson who asks him a strange question, “So, are you a first time vacuum buyer or did your current vacuum let you down?” Paul uses this open-ended question to explain to the inquisitive salesperson how Fido is changing the color of his carpets. The salesperson responds with a confident, “Say no more. This model here is ideal for picking up pet fur off the rugs. But the best part of this model, is the grooming brush attachment that can be used to vacuum the shedding fur from Fido before it hits your carpet!” This salesperson did something that the other two salespeople did not do: he sold the solution. Needless to say, Paul bought the vacuum from the salesperson at “Vacuum Earth.”
As a salesperson, whether you are selling an idea, product or service (all of which can be referred to as “product”), it is best to think in terms of problems and solutions. Your prospect has a problem that requires a solution. How can your product solve their problem? Here are what I call the three levels of selling:
- Sell the product. The salesperson is required to know as much as possible about the product itself. This includes technical specification, features, prices, options, delivery times, inventory, and other details. When a salesperson sells the product, the prospect is required to find the benefits for themselves, then determine how the benefits of the product can solve their problem. This is quite a bit of mental aerobics to ask of any prospect.
- Sell the benefits. This is also referred to as “selling the sizzle.” This requires the salesperson to know the product, and know the general benefits of the product. When a salesperson sells the benefits of the product, the prospect just needs to connect the benefits with the solution to his or her problem. This is a major improvement from simply selling the product but, unfortunately, this is the level where most trained salespeople stop.
- Sell the solution. This requires the salesperson to know the specific problem that the prospect is trying to solve. This information can only be obtained by listening to the prospect and by asking the right questions. Too many salespeople jump right into the selling and neglect the information gathering. The more details the salesperson knows about the prospect’s problem, the more specific the solution can be presented and the better the chances are for closing the sale. When a salesperson sells the solution, the prospect simply needs to agree. Imagine what a different perspective the world would have on salespeople if all salespeople sold solutions.
The main difference between selling benefits and selling solutions is that the solution is specific to the prospect’s problem, whereas the benefits are usually more general. The key to successful selling is to sell at all three levels. When a salesperson sells the product, the benefits, and the solution, the prospect just needs to think about how they are going to pay—cash, check, or charge.
Here are some examples of these levels of selling.
(a job interview)
Not so good: “I am hard-working.”
Good: “I will help your office achieve its goals by making sure the job gets done.”
Very good: “I will see to it that the TPS reports are completed each night, and I will not leave until they are. I will also be sure to use the correct cover sheet.”
(persuading someone to quit smoking)
Not so good: Showing someone a picture of a clean lung versus a smoker’s lung.
Good: Explaining how smoke-free lungs can greatly reduce chances of fatal diseases while showing the pictures.
Very Good: Explaining how smoke-free lungs will help a smoker get rid of their asthma.
(selling a new toaster to someone who mentioned that they burn their toast too often)
Not so good: This toaster has a dial that determines the darkness of your toast.
Good: This toaster can make your toast just the way you like it.
Very Good: This toaster has an “anti-burn” sensor so you will never burn your toast again.
When you are focused on selling solutions, you are forced to ask questions in order to determine the exact problem. This line of questioning shows the prospects that you do care about their needs. Solution selling is more than just another selling technique; it is a trend that will certainly lead you to greater success.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)