The third myth of print sales: prospects are fascinated by the features and benefits of your company

Posted by Matthew Parker

I love all the features of my car. I like the 170 bhp engine which makes acceleration so easy. I like my 18 inch alloys which hold the road so well. I like being able to control the contents of my iPod from the steering wheel. And the climate control keeps the temperature just right.

I have to admit though, I didn’t need the parking sensors. Their constant beeping drives me up the wall.

The car salesperson did an excellent job on me. He sold me on all the features and benefits of the car.  But it’s a very different story in print.

Can you imagine many of your customers being interested in all the features of your presses?

The best sales people talk about their prospect's world - they don't point out features and benefits

The best sales people talk about their prospect’s world – they don’t point out features and benefits

Do you think they really care about the speed of your plate changes? Or your ink feed system? Your JDF workflow?

They probably aren’t even that interested in how your customer service department works.

Features and benefits does not sell print

However, many of the 1400 print sales pitches that I have received have focused on features and benefits.

Print sales people who avoid selling on features and benefits engage prospects quicker. They also tend to create longer lasting relationships. This is because prospects have a more solid reason to do business with the company. So they tend to be more loyal. With these sort of customers a print sales person is in better control of their sales pipeline. They are more likely to achieve their sales targets.

Print sales people who do sell with features and benefits will find it harder to achieve their sales targets. They are less likely to have engaged with the prospect’s true needs. So the customer is more likely to treat them as a commodity supplier.

However, some print sales people will think that I have missed the key element of a sales pitch.

Surely the prospect needs to know all about your company to trust you with their business?

Most prospects will carry out research on potential new suppliers. However, to get to this position they need to be given a good reason to do this research. Just telling prospects about all the whizz-bang features of your company is unlikely to motivate them to do this.

The features and benefits elements education should come later in the sales process. It should only happen when the prospect is validating the decision that they have already made. Typically, the prospect should lead this element of the sales process.

But if you can’t sell with features and benefits, what should you be doing?  Here’s an alternative route.

Focus on me

Most peoples’ favourite subject is themselves. I see this in many sales pitches. The salesperson needs by talking all about themselves and their company. But this isn’t really what interests the prospect.

If you want to engage the prospect, you need to talk about them. After all, that is their favourite subject. If you make the conversation all about the prospect, you’re much more likely to have a beneficial sales conversation.

However, to achieve this you need to remember a second point.

Be in the prospect’s world

To have a sales conversation that focuses on the prospect, you need to understand their world. You need to understand their business. You need to understand the pressures that they are under. You need to understand what is at the top of their priority list.

That is when a prospect is more likely to talk to you.

I have been asked before how the salesperson gets to this point. It can be hard to get prospects to spend time with you. So how are you going to understand their world?

The answer to this is to spend time with current customers who are similar to the prospects you are seeking. Get them to tell you what their life is like. Then you will already know what engages with your prospects.

To make that engagement even more powerful, you need to focus on one element of their world.

Focus on the prospect’s pain

If you can understand what is really making your prospects worry, you have a much better chance of making the sale. Most business sales are not made on the features and benefits of the selling company. Most business sales are made because the product or service will solve a problem for the buyer.

The most effective sales will focus on these customer problems. Remember, that your prospect may not even be aware that they have this problem until you tell them. Remember also, that the problem may not be directly print related.

Let’s look at an example of this

Let’s take the manager of a busy marketing team as the prospect. They are already using two or three print companies and they are happy with them. They are also probably not that interested in print. Does that sound a familiar situation?

Now, put yourself in the manager’s shoes. Imagine that you are receiving a sales pitch from a potential new printer. The print sales person tells you all about their machinery. He also talks about all about the marvellous service and quality that the company can achieve.

Next, imagine you are receiving another sales pitch from a competitor to the first printer. In this sales pitch the print sales person takes a very different approach. They do not really talk about their company. Instead they focus on the issues of getting the right response from a marketing campaign. They probably have some recent statistics. They will talk about how hard it is to get a prospect to act on a marketing message.

Then they may talk about some new marketing techniques that raise response rates. They have experience of integrating these techniques into print marketing campaigns.

Which pitch do you think will be the most interesting to the marketing manager?

I think you know the answer to that!

Here are three action points to help you start building a similar message

  1. Pick one of your customers: someone who makes an ideal client.
  2. Ask if you can interview them. Make sure you understand all about their world and especially their problems.
  3. Start creating a new sales message that focuses on these problems and how you can solve them.

If you follow these action points, you will get rid of features and benefits in your print sales pitch

That means you’ll sell more print. With a bit of luck, you’ll be able to afford some more features and benefits next time you buy a car.

Next week I’m going to focus on the prospect again.  It’s time to bust the myth that it’s the prospect who always makes the conversation about price.
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7 Responses to The third myth of print sales: prospects are fascinated by the features and benefits of your company

  • A wonderful post! The sales world has changed so much. It used to be more about having a customer contacting you, describing their needs. Now, most sales people are contacting their customers. They need to go into these calls armed with background about the company and they need to focus on the company’s needs/challenges/wishes.

  • Well written. My experience teaches me that in a hyper competitive print environment to acquire a new client is a challenge. Talking about machines, service, etc is not going to get you business. Understanding the client, their pain points in current print scenario and what could be done to eliminate these pain points is the key. The article touches the relevant points but to execute will require a much deeper and broader plan.

    • Matthew Parker says:

      Mehul, thank you for your kind comments.

      Matthew

      • thom adams says:

        While much of your post is on point, I think the major point you make is incorrect and without validity. A companies unique Features and Benefits are exactly how one goes about “alleviating pain”or experiencing “living in the prosepcts world”. It’s likely that the company has recognized and developed ways of doing such that… through some feature or providing some benefit.

        Not to downplay the human involvement which is likely the key aspect of attaining new business. Yet it is the analytical and astute rep who is able to find the crevices and use his “tools” to pry open the wider seams which allow the F&B seep in and thus become more useful in the customers eye. No comapny or individual can sell today without the complicit partnering with the rep, and vice-versa.

        • Matthew Parker says:

          Thom, thanks for your comments. I broadly agree with you. I think it depends on when features and benefits are brought up. Often, it’s far too early in the sales process.

  • Pingback: How the seven myths of print sales are destroying our industry | Profitable Print Relationships

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