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How to Turn Information into Sales

By Tim Deuitch

Do you understand your customer's motives and personal preferences? Do you discover your customer's priorities to win more sales? In this video, Bo Smith and Tim Deuitch discuss three strategies for turning information into sales.

Bo Smith: 00:01 Hi. I'm Bo Smith, a Performance Consultant with Strategic Enhancement Group. And today, I am joined by Vice President - Client Success, Tim Deuitch.

Tim Deuitch: 00:17 Bo, it's good to be back with you.

Bo Smith: 00:19 Tim, it's great to be with you again. Today, we want to talk about how to turn information into sales. Anyone in sales knows that the greater your understanding of the customer's needs, the better chance you have of solving their problem and earning the sale. Sometimes, we only need the most basic information, but other times, we need to get beyond the basics to understand not just what the customer wants, but why they want it and what priorities influence the buying decision. Learning this information can make the difference between a significant sale and no sale at all.

Tim Deuitch: 00:54 With this in mind, Bo, what types of information do you think make the biggest difference in earning a sale?

Bo Smith: 01:00 Tim, what matters most is what's most important to the buyer and their priorities of the time, not what the salesperson thinks is the perfect solution. This points out the importance of conducting a thorough discovery. It comes down to asking the detailed questions to try to get to all the things that contribute to the motives of the buyer: the task motives and the personal motives. We may like to think that most business people buy on facts, the task motives – things like increased profit, decreased cost, increased quality or output, or decreased effort.

Bo Smith: 01:34 But often, the decision isn't that clear-cut. Each buyer's different, and they have their own reasons for buying that often go beyond just the logical. Frequently, what makes the biggest differences are the personal motives, and those are tough to find out, because often the buyer doesn't want to divulge them.

Tim Deuitch: 01:51 All true, Bo. Why isn't it easier to learn these things? Why doesn't a customer just tell us?

Bo Smith: 01:58 Particularly, when it comes to personal motives, the buyer may not want to disclose them, Tim. Let me give you some examples. The buyer may not want to readily admit that he hopes for recognition in the company for this innovative product he's going to buy, or that he hopes to earn brownie points with a boss by supporting the boss's choice.

Tim Deuitch: 02:16 On the surface, most people communicate what they need. But often, it's their subconscious that calls the shots in their ultimate buying decision. There's no need to get too psychological, even if it might sound a little bit deep. There are three levels of information we need to discover to ensure the best solution for the customer and you, and the customer decides what they are.

Tim Deuitch: 02:39 The first level is facts. These are often those business motives you mentioned, Bo. Most of us are good at learning the facts of the customer needs, and the customer is good at telling us those things. When looking at a car, for instance, we want a particular performance capability or safety record, or a color, a price, or even the location of the cup holders. For businesses, they want assurances of profit or savings, or high-quality results.

Tim Deuitch: 03:10 The second level gets us deeper under the surface. This level is called meaning, and it's the level of the "why" of a customer's need. We often ask as a salesperson, "Well, what does this need mean to you?" The customer might say, "Well, this technology will make us more efficient, or productive, or safer. Meeting these specs insures a product that's durable and holds its value." All this business-y talk. Or, "I've just used them before, and I trust them."

Tim Deuitch: 03:41 It's the third level, called importance, that's most critical. You can have the perfect solution, but other factors become more important than that perfect solution to the customer. Things like fit and timing, or the state of the economy. The importance level tells us the priority the customer places ultimately on the total purchase at that time. These are the deal-breakers or the deal-makers from the salesperson's perspective.

Tim Deuitch: 04:13 If I need a car right now, the color that I said I wanted may become less meaningful than performance if I want that car right now. Or I may pay more to special order a color, a color that I want, or I may buy from another dealer if that dealer has that car right now.

Bo Smith: 04:32 We also see this in house purchases, Tim, where there are three aspects of any house that are really essential. And the biggest one we oftentimes hear is location, right?

Tim Deuitch: 04:41 Yes.

Bo Smith: 04:41 But there are other aspects that might be nice, but they're not a deal-breaker.

Tim Deuitch: 04:45 Exactly. Confirming what's important is good for customers, as they haven't always established this meaning beforehand. I mentioned that some buying decisions are made from the subconscious. Asking for importance, that priority, or the value often helps them hone what matters most. You've done them a favor by asking them to go deep with you.

Tim Deuitch: 05:10 Bo, can you think of a story when someone helped a customer think through what's important? Where they gladly bought something even at a greater price than they thought they might in the beginning?

Bo Smith: 05:23 Tim, you and I work with an associate here at Strategic Enhancement Group, and she wanted to remodel her outdated bathroom. She set a budget, and then she reached out to several contractors. Unfortunately, the first two took very little time to listen, or learn what she wanted, or try to educate her. They sent her proposals by email. She learned her budget was too low, but more concerning than that was their lack of attention. She was discouraged, so she reached out to a third contractor.

Bo Smith: 05:54 Now, Jan was different. Jan was a true counselor salesperson, and she demonstrated her competence, credibility, and integrity from the very first meeting. She brought a binder with all the firm's licenses, insurance information, and awards. Most importantly, she took the time to listen and asked questions about what was most important to the client. She learned what was most important that way. Jan then invited her to the showroom, where she was able to show her photos of different things, what her old bathroom looked like contrasting to what the desired one would look like.

Bo Smith: 06:31 She educated her in a variety of other possibilities, like granite countertops and heated floors, and those really excited our friend. Ultimately, she was thrilled to pay Jan three times what she'd budgeted because Jan listened and learned what was most important to her, educated her on what was possible, and supported her throughout the process.

Tim Deuitch: 06:54 Those first two contractors in her story, they stuck to the facts, that first level, but the third helped her arrive at what was most important to her. The three-level model is just one tool that we use to help salespeople get a deeper level of information from customers. No matter which tools you use, there are three behaviors that put us in the best position to provide the best solution for both parties.

Bo Smith: 07:22 Number one, plan to learn what matters most and why. This often means you want to ask the customer to share or think out loud about all that matters about the solution they're seeking.

Tim Deuitch: 07:33 Number two, stay curious as you talk with the customer. Often, when a customer states a need that fits your solution, we jump to positioning, "We can do that." Instead, stay curious by asking, "Why is that important?" Or, "Tell me what's behind that interest." Customers appreciate this curiosity and will share more information.

Bo Smith: 07:56 Number three is openly confirm what you learn. You're not done learning until you can articulate what matters most to the customer and they agree. The customer knows you listened, and they're comfortable as you describe your solution.

Tim Deuitch: 08:12 Bo, you mentioned house purchases before, and I want to end on that analogy. When we buy a house or rent an apartment, the ultimate buying decision is influenced by new information throughout the entire process. From the outside appearance of the house to each room we step in, we assess how it looks and feels. We'll say to ourselves or our partner, "I love it; it's fine," or "I don't like it." When we're done, we decide based on what we want most, and the things that we find out ultimately don't matter as much as we thought.

Tim Deuitch: 08:50 In the B2B world, helping a customer buy is a similar journey. We learn something new at each step of the process. Departments, business conditions, manager preferences all have a factor in a buying decision, and we need to learn what matters most to each player involved. This information puts you in the best possible position to offer a solution that works for the customer and for you. To learn more about how to tackle the problems sales professionals deal with every day, visit us at StrategicEnhancementGroup.com.

Published: June 19, 2024

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Tim Deuitch

Vice President - Client Success

Tim brings over 25 years of experience working closely with business leaders throughout the Twin Cities and the USA. He has worked within a multitude of workplace cultures and economic cycles, helping leaders and teams improve their effectiveness and results. Since joining SEG in 2007, Tim has continued his work as a change agent, helping organizations meet their goals. Tim graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1983 with a B.S. degree in social work.

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