Tim Witcherley

How to outsmart your peers on sales

by Tim Witcherley on March 13, 2014

It can be challenging to close a sale when you’re competing in a crowded market. Customers are inundated with marketing messages and have a great deal of information at their disposal.

So how do you get customers to choose you? Here are 4 tips to outsmart your peers:

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1. Remove fears

You can (and should) promote all the rational benefits your product or service offers, but any major purchase has an emotional element – even if the customer doesn’t admit it. Switching to a new supplier involves a great deal of fear. It can revolve around payback period, reliability, ease of use, or the time it takes to adapt to something different.

You need to overcome these fears on a rational and an emotional level. On the rational level, think about how you can offer proof of concept. This includes case studies, site visits, demos and trial periods, as applicable.

On the emotional level, inspire trust. Ask existing customers if they’ll act as references, and then give the prospect the details so they can contact them directly. Customers are preparing to entrust you with a portion of their business operations. Demonstrate you’re worthy of that trust.

2. Convince the customer to work with you, not just buy your product or service

Being a small or medium-sized business means you offer the customer a key advantage: your flexibility. The customer isn’t going to get bogged down in red tape or be consigned to a bureaucratic aftercare arrangement. You have the agility to respond efficiently to queries.

As a result, working with you becomes more than using a product or service. It becomes a true partnership focused on helping customers achieve their business goals.

3. Put cost in context, and emphasise return on investment

Cost is a tricky issue. On the one hand, you don’t want to turn your product or service into a commodity, where it feels like the customer’s decision is coming down to price. On the other hand, cost is obviously an important factor for the customer.

First of all, sell the customer on the cost benefits of choosing you. For example, do you offer a service at a regular monthly fee, giving the customer transparency and control over cash flow? Are there opportunity costs associated with sticking with an old supplier, for example, lower productivity?

Secondly, focus the customer on return on investment rather than cost. If you’re more expensive than other options out there, emphasise how your added value makes for a quicker payback. Most companies will pay a bit more if you can show they get more financial benefit from the spend.

4. Make friends with the end user

When selling their products or services, most software companies focus on the stakeholders directly involved in the decision-making process, such as the director who holds the purse strings and the procurement person who handles the tender. These people are undoubtedly important for closing the deal.

But lots of companies fail to make the sale because they haven’t devoted enough time to the end user. The end users may not have a seat at the top table, but they will certainly make their opinions known within the company. And if they don’t want to use the product, or are resentful about having to adapt to the change, they will make your product a failure.

You therefore need to get a true understanding of what end users do on a daily basis. Listen to them to find out what they need out of the product or service, what frustrates them about the current system and what they like about what they’re using.

If the end users like you and feel understood then they will be powerful advocates, pushing the director and the procurement person to choose you.

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Tim Witcherley

This post was written by Tim Witcherley

As Cognition's Managing Director, Tim sets by example by being an incredibly driven and commercial businessman who has built a very impressive marketing consultancy which has continued to grow year on year. With a very straight and honest approach to business, he ensures he gets the best results for his clients and builds strong partnerships with his suppliers.

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