In Sales & Marketing, Remember: It’s About the Customer, Not You!

Your prospect or customer wants to know: What can you do for me?

If you really want to breakthrough with prospects and customers, you’re going to have to be prepared to demonstrate what’s in it for them. That means asking the right questions, listening well, doing your research and skillfully crafting a story that shows how your products or services make the customer and his company winners.

The concept of strategically collecting and applying information for positive customer engagement is nothing new. Knowing about the concept is one thing. However, being able to successfully deploy it is something else.

Marketers should know and understand the key points about strategic and consultative selling.  (There are numerous articles and guides than can be read.) Further, marketers should provide sales teams with the necessary tools and materials to successfully engage in this type of selling (e.g., examples of how the products and services can help customers and prospects succeed in various usage applications, end-user research, etc).

Dynamic and Fun Example

This example takes the practice of strategic selling to a whole new level of proficiency. It provides a discussion springboard for what can be applied at your company.

In this story, the seller wants the customer to have an excellent experience. One member of the selling team takes extraordinary action to go beyond making that happen. His objective is to cater to the customer’s specific interests and tastes instead of simply fitting the seller’s standard offerings to the customers. He creates an amazing, unique experience. For that sales team member, it is customer first.

To begin, let’s introduce the main characters.

■ The seller is an industrious restaurant wine director.

■ The customer is Greg Popovich, coach of the NBA team San Antonio Spurs. Under his leadership, the Spurs have won five NBA championships. Popovich also serves as the head coach of the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team. In addition to his basketball coaching prowess, describing him as a wine enthusiast is an understatement. He is a true oenophile. Popovich, often referred to as simply Pop, has created a bit of legend and mystique around the dinners with wine that he hosts for his team, colleagues and friends. They are food and wine combination events designed with a business leadership and teamwork purpose.

When Greg Popovich scheduled one of his team dinners at a Sacramento, California restaurant for a group of 40, wine director Jeremy Threat went into action. He researched Popovich, learned about his food and wine habits, and even discovered a list of his favorite wines. Threat then physically sourced about 120 bottles of wine, many of which were highly touted and valued at $50,000 in total. He created and produced a custom wine list for the team dinner that was distributed to the tables. Popovich was duly impressed and the result was $15,000 to $20,000 of wine sales for the restaurant. The story circulated in the industry and helped accelerate the career trajectory of the wine director.

What’s especially powerful is that the wine director achieved everything in less than one day! As detailed by ESPN reporter Baxter Holmes:

“Hours earlier, when [Jeremy Threat] learned that the Spurs might be coming in, he’d recalled a Wine Spectator magazine feature that had listed many of Pop’s favorite wines. He explains how he’d called a nearby friend who possesses a deep cellar, how his friend had hauled in about 120 bottles worth roughly $50,000 in total, how Threat had built the list that Pop now holds of 54 wines.”

(You can read the entire article, Michelin restaurants and fabulous wines: Inside the secret team dinners that have built the Spurs’ dynasty, here.)

How can this story be applied to the rest of us?

Obviously, this is an extreme example, and one restaurants would be hard pressed to scale. However, the underlying concept and practice can be applied by everyone. The keys are sales and marketing preparation, creativity and action.

If you’re pitching a product or service to a prospect, make sure you understand exactly who they are, what they do and how whatever you’re selling can help the prospect better than alternate options. You have to then strategically and even tactfully apply this learning in the right way, at the right time and in the right place.

For instance, it’s more than “we sell a, b and c and here’s why they’re so great.” Instead, you’ll have more impact by creating and communicating a story along the lines of (fill in the blanks based on your learning and information collection):

“It seems your _________________ [focus, challenge, problem, opportunity, etc.] is in _____________ area. We have some products (or services) that can help you _____________ [increase efficiency, save money, provide enhanced services, get to market faster, etc.] Let’s talk about that.”

To keep yourself energized and on track, strive to be the recipient of the incredulous and complimentary question coach Popovich asked the wine director: “How did you do this?”

Harvey Chimoff is a versatile marketing and business team leader who believes good marketing sells. Contact him at StratGo Marketing, where he provides plug-in marketing leadership and services for company leaders. Please subscribe to receive immediate notification of each new post.

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