It's not about the product
A couple months ago I set out on an adventure to purchase a new set of tires for my 2011 Mercedes-Benz SUV. I wanted to purchase locally and since we don’t have a Mercedes dealer in my market, I went to the tire company that takes care of the entire fleet of vehicles for my service company.
I took my vehicle and it’s balding tires to the store to see what my options were regarding replacement tires. I hope you caught the key word I used … options. I was seeking a few options to choose from, no different than what our customers desire from us.
I’m a fan of luxury cars and have driven some variation of them for quite some time now, so I’m very clear that maintenance and service are never on the “cheap” end of the spectrum. However, I was still seeking value for the investment I was attempting to make in our comfort and safety.
As I walked into the store, I was greeted by a very young sales associate who looked like he could still be in high school. Since I’m in sales and perform sales training multiple times a week, I’m always looking to give a sales associate the benefit of the doubt. Heck, I work with some really good technicians who happen to look young, so they have to overcome this unfair perception based on their looks as well.
Because of this, I don’t reveal anything I’m thinking about his age or experience and proceed to explain that I’m seeking a replacement set of tires. We went out to look at tire type and size, then he quickly returned to his sales cubicle and punched out some serious key strokes before informing me that he does not have the tires in stock.
Yes, this is the first thing he leads with - he doesn’t have what I’m looking for. He did finally tell me he could order them, but why not tell a customer immediately what you can do for him instead of what you can’t?
He continues to inform me that a pretty big difference exists between the lower-priced tires and the next price up. “What is the difference?” I ask, assuming he’ll begin to explain all the various differences in features and benefits of the tires, along with the corresponding pricing.
No such luck! He simply states he can get one set for about $175 per tire and the next level “up” from that is $380 per tire. Now I may not always be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can quickly decipher a 100% price difference in products!
When I began to inquire about the difference in the tires regarding the product themselves, he just says, “Well, um, let’s see … the lower price tire is made by … uh, I’m not sure how to pronounce the name of the manufacturer. The more expensive tire is made by Pirelli, so you’re really just paying for the name with that one.”
“Are you serious right now?” I think to myself. We have a 100% price difference in tires and all you can give me for differentiation is that it’s a name-brand product? That’s it? No ratings, no specs, no tread conversation, handling, ride, etc.? Zero, zip, nada!
We’re not discussing purchasing a generic version of Tylenol at the pharmacy because I’ve got a little headache. We’re talking about a luxury performance vehicle that I put more than 15,000 miles on per year and a lot of those miles are at very high speeds!
Emphasize the value propositionThink about how this sales experience ties to your business. What is your value proposition when it comes to certain products and services? How can you keep the training alive in your organization so your technicians and sales team can communicate value and benefits to outweigh the price? With every customer interaction, a salesperson has the opportunity to explain how your offerings and your company are different. Ideally, we want to maximize the sales experience through creating an interactive communication that explores customers’ needs and creates positive differentiation.
What if this sales associate had asked how many miles I drive per year? What type of driving am I typically doing? Am I a skier or do I cross the Rocky Mountains in the winter? (I do this for my clients in Denver quite often.) How long do I plan to keep my car? And so on.
I may not be a professional tire salesperson, but I’m an artist when it comes to understanding a customer’s wants, needs and desires, then crafting attractive options in order to meet their purchasing wants and needs.
This poor kid clearly wasn’t comfortable with selling $380 tires to me or anyone else. This could be his fault because he hasn’t applied his training and committed himself to his customers or it could very well be that he wasn’t trained properly.
We don’t know what the reality of his training situation was, but we do know that somewhere between $700 to $1,500+ walked out of the store and remained in my pocket that day. This was simply due to the fact that I wasn’t confident making a buying decision based on this salesperson’s level of understanding and communication of value.
This is about my lifestyle, safety, comfort and fun. This isn’t just about a set of tires. The same is true regarding your customers and your company!
It’s not simply about the tires in this situation and it’s absolutely not just about the plumbing, HVAC or electrical issue your company was called to repair. The key is to ensure that your salespeople are well-trained and confident, and that they remain focused on the customer throughout the call.
What if my tire salesperson had been more informed and self-assured, asking exploratory questions about my wants and needs? I would have purchased tires from him that day. The better your team understands the concept that “it’s not about the product,” the more your customers benefit at every turn and the more your sales will increase.