Mass High Tech

Remove sales obstacles and accelerate the sale

By Barbara Bix and Melissa Josephson

Marketing textbooks preach that pain sells. The quickest way to make a sale is to identify customers' pain and sell the product that will solve their problems.

But customers also have many issues that they believe are important to solve, if not painful. How can you sell products that address problems other than pain when the customer is addressing only painful issues? One way is to remove sales obstacles so that customers can't pass on the opportunity to buy right away. Then focus on giving customers exactly what they want.

Eliminating obstacles is key when your product or service is "merely" useful or you face tough competition. Your mission, then, is to anticipate and address customer concerns and eliminate obstacles that might prolong the buying process. Software companies frequently use the following tactics:

  • Provide proof and demonstrate ROI. Help your prospects cost-justify their purchase. Develop case studies that demonstrate and quantify how high-profile customers have used your product or service to increase revenue or cut costs.
  • Eliminate the risk. Provide free demos for prospective customers. Once prospects experience firsthand the advantages you offer, they are more likely to buy after the trial period.
  • Limit the upfront financial commitment. Package your product or service such that it can be bought in installments or pieces. Get your foot in the door and allow customers to upgrade later.
  • Rearrange your prospect's budget. When your prospective customers plead "no money in the budget," work with them to identify line items in their budgets that your product or service will help eliminate. The ability to reduce or eliminate budgeted items is an extremely powerful sales tool, especially in today's restrictive budget economy.
  • Bundle products, features and services. Bundling eliminates customers' need for shopping around and also provides an easy way to sell items that customers may not have realized they need.

Accelerating the buying cycle
Successful companies understand their customers' experiences from start to finish. They learn to walk in their customers' footsteps. These companies identify cracks in the delivery system and position themselves to design and implement processes that make customers want to buy from them.

Here are three steps for accelerating the buying cycle:

  • Identify the problems that customers experience when buying
  • Design products to meet customers' purchasing needs
  • Implement.

Problem identification
Businesses can undertake a number of methods to identify problems that delay the buying process. Common techniques include:

Hiring someone to "mystery shop" your organization and report on their experiences and the roadblocks they encounter.

Observing a customer attempting to complete such tasks as placing an order or logging a complaint. Note the number of steps, the time necessary to complete the task, and the customer's reaction.

Have open-ended discussions with your customers. What do customers like about your purchasing process? What don't they like? How can you change your processes to meet their needs?

Successful companies include their customers in the design process. Ask for their feedback. Look at your internal processes from the customers' perspectives. Solicit feedback from all departments that the customer touches, such as sales, marketing, operations and customer service. Investigate what your competition is offering. Include customers and representatives from each department to brainstorm.

Successful companies assign an owner responsible for ensuring a positive customer experience. The owner is responsible for implementing processes, systems and teams that track and resolve customer concerns, including:

  • Training employees to listen for customer concerns
  • Empowering staff to correct problems as they arise
  • Soliciting feedback and analyzing data on an ongoing basis
  • Continuing to refine a nd test the products in place.

Consider the following:
Do you know where all of your business comes from? Do you have win-loss reporting systems in place to explain what made or broke the deal? Do you follow up with customers to check on their satisfaction and remind them of how your products and services meet their needs? Are your systems and processes integrated so that anything that you learn about your customer in one area is immediately implemented everywhere else?

You can accelerate your customers' buying cycle and enable them to focus on important — in addition to painful
issues simply by making it easier for them to purchase your products and service.

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