Successful Sales: Presenting Your Company and Products By Gerry Giorgio and Joe Fox

Part six in an eight-part series about sales strategies that improve profit.

Previous articles in this series have discussed the stepsthat make up the initial phases of the sales process. They have explained thesales theory of planning the commitment you will ask of your customer;developing a relationship with the customer; asking the customer good questions(about both personal and business related topics); and identifying yourcustomer’s needs. All of these steps are important, and all have led you here– to the point of actually presenting your products and services.

This is where you get the opportunity to present to your(potential) customer the reasons why it would be beneficial for them topurchase your product or service. However, there is a critical part of thisphase that, if not done properly, can thwart all of the hard work you did ingetting to this point. That being: You must always be sure to link the productor service you are presenting to specific customer needs that you have come tounderstand through the previous questioning phase.

In our last article, which appeared in the May 2003 issue ofGPN, we covered the importance of understanding customer needs through askinggood questions — questions that relate to the benefits of your products orservices. Further, it was established that it is important to give the customeran opportunity to acknowledge that the needs you uncovered were indeed validand of interest to them. It is with this in mind that an effective presentationcan be made. This understanding sets the stage for a presentation that hasmeaning and relevance to your customer and will ultimately be successful inselling your product or service.

Demonstrate the Need

The best way to link your presentation with the customers’needs is by acknowledging what you heard them tell you during questioning. Asan example, let’s say that during the questioning process, your customer (agarden retailer) expressed a need for store merchandising. The questions youasked led you to this need, and you now want to let the customer know how youcan provide services or products to fill their need for store merchandising.The easiest way to link what your customer has told you to your presentation isto acknowledge what you heard. You might say, “you told me that you neededimproved merchandising in your stores.” Other segues might be, “youmentioned that. . .” or “you told me you were interested in. ..” There are other statements that can also be used to acknowledge thatyou understood what your customer expressed and are trying to solve theirneeds. You should feel free to use any statement you think accomplishes thegoal. The key is to just simply state one of these linking phrases to the needyou heard and to do this in your own natural way.

This act of linking what your customer told you to points inyour presentation is a very powerful sales technique. It immediately tells thecustomer that you listened to them, and that you understood what they said. Inturn, it shows a sincerity on your part to sell not just what you want to sellor have available, but rather, to sell the customer what they need.

Features and Benefits

Another critical part of product presentation is the need topresent your product or service in terms of features and benefits. ÁDoing this will allow you to make a strong connection with the customer’sstated need and how your specific product or service will address that need.

Features and benefits must always be stated as aninseparable couple. One cannot exist without the other. State only a feature,and your customer may not understand exactly what your product can do for them.Stating only a benefit, while perhaps a little better, still leaves somecustomers guessing about what part of your product or service you are referringand how your product can achieve that benefit.

Features and benefits are quite different, and each must beunderstood in order to make an effective product presentation. Features simplymake a statement about a characteristic of your product (e.g., all of my company’s4-inch geraniums come with full color, oversized signage.), while a benefitdescribes what this characteristic will do for your customer (e.g., colorfulsignage helps to differentiate a product, rescue it from commodity status and demand a higher price.).

The following is an example using the kinds of linkingstatements discussed above to connect the features and benefits of your productor service with the customer’s stated needs:

Linking Statement. Whenwe talked last time, you told me that you needed improved merchandising in yourstores. Is this still the case?

Feature. Our companyhas a team of 20 merchandisers, each assigned to a specific store location andeach having three scheduled store visits at that location each week.

Benefit. This meansthat your displays will always be fresh and well stocked. Further, anindividual who has a personal knowledge of a specific store will organize itmore appropriately, take more pride in the store and its success, and will cometo have an understanding of the store’s needs and its customer’s habits.

This approach to product presentation will always be moreeffective than one that only focuses on product features and has no relevanceto a need specifically stated by the customer. This is the kind of approachthat will fit most completely with the months of preparation leading up to theproduction presentation.

Features and benefits will best be referenced if they arethought out in advance of your presentation. Think about them ahead of time,and write them down. Even put them into a sell sheet to be distributed andreferenced during the presentation. The result will make the extra effortworthwhile.

Next month, we will discuss the most important part of thesales process, achieving a commitment from your customer to actually purchaseyour product or service.

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Gerry Giorgio and Joe Fox

You must always be sure to link the product or service you are presenting to specific customer needs that you have come to understand through the previous questioning phase.

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