Follow the Steps (Issue 487)

In which we are reminded that selling value frequently requires us to follow the steps of our clients’ business processes.

Quote for the week:

“Aristotle was famous for knowing everything. He taught that the brain exists merely to cool the blood and is not involved in the process of thinking.”

— Will Cuppy (American humorist and writer)

So, remember the sales rep who said, “We can tell our clients anything they want. In the end, they still buy on price?” An example of brain as blood cooler.

One of my friends runs a small consulting business. She tells the story of going to a bank to inquire about a lockbox service. If my friend used a lockbox, her clients would send their payment checks directly to the bank rather than to her office and the bank would deposit the checks, giving her use of the money quickly. When my friend asked about the service, the bank sales rep said, “Oh, you wouldn’t want that, it’s too expensive.” The bank fee was about $10 – $15 per check deposited.

On the face of it, $10 – $15 per check might sound like a lot of money per check…. until we consider (1) the length of time incoming checks would sit on my friend’s desk (up to a couple of weeks) until she or her bookkeeper could get to them, (2) the time required from someone to take the incoming checks to the bank, (3) the size and number of checks he received each month, and (4) the time required to post the items in her general ledger. If the sales rep had understood my friend’s business process, he would have seen that $15 per item is NOTHING in comparison to the costs she’s already incurring.

Any product can be sold as a commodity. Any product can be sold based on value. One of the M O S T C R I T I C A L requirements for selling based on value is… the seller must understand

  • the steps in his or her clients’ business processes,
  • the time and expense is involved in executing those steps,
  • how the steps will change if the buyer adopts the seller’s products or recommendations, and
  • what opportunities will be lost or costs incurred if no change is made.

To sell this lock box product, the bank sales rep did not need to know, in detail, how a lockbox worked. He needed to know, in detail, how this particular small business worked. My friend probably would have paid DOUBLE the quoted fee to have the bank take care of these items for her.

Typical seller training includes a big dose of product training. This is to be expected. We sit, we learn the features, functions, benefits, and applications of our products. We can’t sell what we don’t know.

If we want to use our brains as something more than fancy radiators, we should go one step further – become expert in our customers’ business processes in which our products or services could be used, and the costs our customers incur in using those processes.

And even further, to ask our clients to walk us, step by (occasionally) painful step through their business processes…. “And then what happens?…. And how long goes that take?…. And who does that?…. And what does that cost? And what’s the next step after that…And…”

But, the bank sales rep didn’t go there. So, while it could have been a H U G E help to my friend if incoming checks went directly to the bank, I guess she wouldn’t want the service because it would be too expensive.

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