Anyone involved in sales and marketing will know about features and benefits – a legacy of the 70′s/80′s and 90′s school of selling. Whilst the underpinning principle in my view is sound – today we find customers are more discerning, wanting for far more, often for less! Over the past few years I have been exploring how the old school of selling (F & B) can be fused with a more powerful channel to communicating propositions – this has led me to adding impact and evidence to the old ways of doing things. I believe that when we combine F and B with I and E an extremely intense message is emitted to customers. Next time you are in a sales situation think about:
Impact – can you validate to customers: return on investment (ROI), cost savings, efficiencies, when you can demonstrate impact in terms of facts and figures the credibility of your proposition is just positioned on a new level – for example if you are an advertising agency, can you show the impact of your services on the clients budget of £X will give a return of £5X
Evidence– telling the customer that you are great is superficial and generic – in the case of the advertising agency the evidence should be – the names of three clients that have benefited from the services and indeed the added value brought to bear. Such an approach to selling is clear – there is no ambiguity.
I have observed many businesses embrace this F.B.I.E model of selling and proposition marketing . It can be applied to telesales, web communications, pitches and any other form of business development. When you think in terms of FBIE your messages become crisper and to the point – more importantly they will resonate with the customers world – it shows you are bothered and its not just about getting a deal. Try it – it really does work!
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Success involves people and organisations having to sell what they have to offer – this could be our skill, a product or service. This term frightens the life out of many as it conjures images of unethical smooth talking individuals manipulating others so as to get their own way. This is not the case, a great pitch is grounded in ethical behaviour fused to a mindset of offering real value through a passionate belief in what you have to offer. Personal and professional progression means that you will frequently be in a situation where you have to pitch for what you want. Applying for a career promotion, a place on the school board or attracting new customers fundamentally means we are in competition and there is a need to sell.
If you don’t adopt this mindset then you will struggle to get what you want out of life. When you find yourself in a situation where selling is vital, start by asking:
- Do I understand their world?
- What problem am I going to solve for the person I am pitching to?
- What do I know about my audience?
- What value do I bring?
- What examples can I use to evidence credibility?
- How can I bring to life the impact I make?
- What is special about what I have to offer?
Personal progression means you must embrace the philosophy of life is a pitch. In doing this you condition yourself to delivering an effective and engaging performance to those that matter. Convincing others of the benefit of your talent, idea, product or service is an integral component to achieving your goals. Other people have an influence on whether we succeed or not. Your pitching mindset should help you to position your key messages in the following way:
- Real and tangible
- Deliver it with passion and meaning
- Ruthlessly simplistic message
- Clearly shows the difference you will make
- Win – win outcome
Practicing your pitching skills to enhance your chances of success. It will put you in a stronger position to beat off competition.
For the past ten years marketing experts and the finance community have stressed the importance and benefit of having an “elevator pitch”. This is the term, originating from the US, used to describe very clearly and concisely your proposition or offering. The elevator pitch is commonly used in selling situations, increasingly it has become one of the key tools entrepreneurs use to raise finance.
The Dragons Den format has dominated investments forums in recent years and it seems to be these events where the elevator pitch has greatest application. Just how effective is this pitching environment? – on TV we have seen many individuals face humiliation in front of millions. Makes great TV (not for me, as I personally can’t stand the programme). These TV styled events have got boring, local entrepreneurs (business angels, devils more like) with ego’s the size of planets, sit there in judgement of nervous individuals struggling to get their message out in three minutes.
Well in my view anyone who can make a financial judgement based on a three-minute elevator pitch must be a genius. The sensible and ethical investors I have come across avoid TV style pitching formats and spend time trying to understand the idea, the proposition, the person, the market, and the numbers. It’s a considered response based on a least a couple of hours of discussion. How many ideas get lost or fail to see the light of day because an individual can’t get their message over within 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Does that make them a bad entrepreneur?
Two serious and successful VC’s I have spoken to (one in the UK and the other from North America) have started to do away with pitching type events – instead they want to get under the skin of the ideas and the people. How refreshing!
I was asked today what I thought about the LEAD programme. The truth is it should still be running. For me LEAD was a fantastic stimulus for both personal and organisational change. It helped leaders to personally and professionally grow.
Anyone running a business knows that if you don’t adapt and constantly move with the needs of customers you will quickly get left behind. Living in the “Customers World” by spending at least 3 days a week with them is a habit successful entrepreneurs exhibit. By doing this you get close to their problems and issues, ultimately locking in by becoming a trusted adviser
Any leader should be promoting the fundamental importance of sales. Great selling is about adding value, leaving positive mental imprints of yourself and your business. Integrity, trust and a strong reputation are key foundations of happy customers. Remember – the desk is a very dangerous place to view the market and your customers needs, get out there and practice the philosophy of success is 20% thinking and 80% doing!
LEAD helped to embed these very important principles for growth – bring it back !
Bravery and courage are important traits of successful entrepreneurs. All too often there is a very fine dividing line between success and failure, the implications on either outcome can equally profound. Rene Carayol, a leading management thinker and person I truly admire talks about the need to sometimes practice “scary strategies”. These are methodologies that need to be employed in order to achieve a breakthrough or pursue big personal/business intention. They often involve raising the bar and extension of our natural comfort zones. Scary strategies are particularly appropriate in difficult selling situations where there is a real need to demonstrate competitive advantage e.g. dislodging an incumbent supplier from a long-standing relationship or as a small business pitching against a global brand.
In considering the deployment of a scary strategy we must pay due recognition to:
– Challenging the status quo and encouraging the customer to change their outlook, in other words try to change their mindset
– Bringing a different approach or one that is unconventional but truly brings benefit (however, there is a fine dividing line between genius and madness)
-Challenge existing practices that are old-fashioned and out of date
Scary strategies should be considered when all traditional methods of winning business have failed. Doing something memorable that is innovative, inspiring and displays a real sense imagination can sometimes win the day.
An approach taken by major London ad agency in the 90’s is one of the best examples I have come across. In the days of British Rail, the top management turned up at the agency ready to be pitched to. An uninterested receptionist, filing her nails, made them wait in the foyer, which was decorated with coffee-stained tables and overflowing ashtrays. The minutes ticked by and nobody came to meet them. Furious at their treatment, the BR managers were about to storm out when an agency Director and his team appeared. “That’s how the public sees BR,” the Director told them. “Now let’s see what we can do to put it right.”
Ambitious high growth entrepreneurs should spend at least 3 days of their official working week living in the customer’s world. Viewing the market place from the desk is extremely dangerous, being immersed within your industry and the needs of your customers provides real-time market intelligence. This helps to tailor propositions specifically to the wants and needs of your market place; it also supports new product and service development. Gazelles companies create a massive gap between them and their competitors because they deploy innovation and imagination to problems, this inspires and very often leads to development and evolution of propositions that the customer didn’t even know they wanted! They occupy uncontested space. Others will soon start to copy and replicate – your job is to stay one step ahead of the game.
High growth businesses we have studied stay close to their key stakeholders. More specifically, they spend time
- Looking at the factors that impact their customer’s performance – this provides opportunities to provide new solutions
- Understanding their customers strategy – this facilitates a partnership working model
- Looking at how they can help improve efficiencies, reduce costs and enhance performance.
Getting close to the market helps to drive what I term “customer lock in” – that phase of the supplier/customer relationship were there is a true partnership, mutual respect and a genuine win-win. Moving to lock in can absorb an enormous amount of time effort and energy, however the rewards can be big. It also makes it very difficult for competitors to move in and occupy your space. Being embedded means any new entrant would have to untangle lots of relationships, systems and processes to get a foothold. A word of caution – never take relationships for granted and be aware of performance vs. KPIs. Customer complacency represents a real danger zone for businesses. Lock in delivers true competitive advantage.