IN THE BEGINNING WHERE THE NEEDS | KNOWING HOW TO SELL
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” – Simon Sinek
Lately, it has occurred to me that sales organizations seldom show any awareness of my actual needs. Whether they operate in the banking sector, media, clothing retail or food stores…very few brands have paid attention to my needs as a consumer. It’s hard to believe but this is so real! And it bothered me to realize that I wasn’t the only person to have noticed that. Therefore, I decided to look closer into the matter.
According to a market study by SalesForce, conducted on over 2500 companies in the world, more than 60% of the business do not have personalized relationships with their customers.
AN UNSUSPECTED REVENUE LOSS FOR BUSINESSES
It’s incredible the number of businesses paying little attention to their consumers’ actual needs and expectations. It’s a shame really! Because, according to BCG, companies providing a personalized solution to their consumers, experience an additional 6 to 10% increase in revenue. This is a growth, 2 to 3 times faster than companies offering only standardized solutions.
Knowing the needs of one’s consumers, requires having, of course, a clear target. Unfortunately, it is a complex exercise that most business owners tend to skip. But, I’m afraid, as business owners, we have no choice but to pay more attention. There is no way around it.
KNOWING THE TARGET CUSTOMERS IMPLIES UNDERSTANDING THEIR ENVIRONMENT…
Knowing the target customers implies at least, understanding their environment, lifestyle, basic needs and expectations.
In France, business trainings are all about asking open questions and listening to prospects. Then the students are taught the FAB (Features, Advantages, Benefits) or FABP (Feature, Advantage, Benefits, Proofs) model for sales argumentation. For those not familiar with the tool, it helps business developers build their argumentation pitch.
Therefore, I personally recommend my customers to use the NFBAP (Needs, Features, Benefits, Advantages, Proofs) approach. It still starts with the questioning and listening routine. But it is completed by a transition phase centered on thoroughly understanding consumers true pains and needs. From there, we can build on very specifically featured solutions. This is what brings serious value to the customers.
The idea is that, for every pain, there is a specific benefit expected from the pain reliever offered.
LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT A COUPLE OF EXAMPLES.
Let us say that for instance, you plan to travel alone, on earth, from location A to location B. Your expected benefit could be to ride a private, land vehicle. If a time constraint is attached, a motorized feature could be added to the solution proposed, etc… I believe that the guiding principle for sustainable business, is to act upon relieving consumers’ expressed pains. Is that clear for you?
Here comes another example. The fundamental purpose of a telephone is to place and receive phone calls. A wireless telephone purpose is to be able to place and receive calls while in movement. Features like speakers or telephone directory, are additional services. They serve as advantages offered by companies, to differentiate from competition. Because of course, competition is also producing pain relievers to the same basic concerns of the consumers.
From the first telephone available for sale in 1876, to smartphones, the needs served have evolved tremendously. Today’s mobile phones are literally minicomputers. Still, the need to communicate with distant people has not evolved much. For that matter, classic telephones still exist, with the sole purpose of placing and receiving calls.
Observing telephone devices development over the time, provides a very good insight. We can clearly see the financial opportunities attached to a consumer behavior approach of a market.
THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING MARKET NEEDS, BEFORE STARTING A BUSINESS VENTURE
In a French article from 2018, by Les clés de demain (Tomorrow keys), they made a very interesting point. The article explains potential money losses of business that pay poor attention to their actual consumers’ needs. One example concerns rap music industry in France. They claim it is the music style most listened to in the country. But the producers are 45+ years old, male and white. They do not listen to that kind of music, and consistently hire people resembling them. It goes without saying that they have a hard time detecting new talents to secure their own investments.
From a societal standpoint, I do believe it is common sense to focus on customers’ needs and satisfaction. I guess it has to do with the company core values, to begin with. If the venture is purely financial, then the business model is what I consider “aboveground”. Therefore, neither consumers’ needs, employees’ needs, the quality of the products or their relevance, are priorities for the business owners. The business model is based on short-term solutions and quick-wins investments. And after that, well, they start all over again with new opportunities.
I other words, I do not support that kind of organizations, but it works so…
“It is not that we need new ideas, but we need to stop having old ideas” – Edwin Herbert Land
In a more sustainable model, the more you know about your target customer’s needs, the more opportunities you create for yourself. Such business models provide varieties of innovation possibilities. And they come with additional sales opportunities on the same target consumers.
Understanding well all needs, actual benefits expected and pains of the target consumer, is important to build a personalized solution. If you ask me, this is where innovation stands; it has little to do with technology. I do believe innovation is the ability to produce a creative and sustainable response to a targeted consumers’ real need.
FROM UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS, TO A VALUE PROPOSITION
There is a very clever tool that helps business development people to thoroughly investigate the public needs, expectations and pains. The tool does that and helps setting up relevant pragmatic features, to ensure customers satisfaction. It’s the Value Proposition Canvas by Alex Osterwalder. Of course, you have many other methods available. But I find this one simple and playful. We can easily brainstorm with our clients to evaluate their actual needs and pains. And we can work with our team members on the features and pains relievers.
However, collecting information and structuring it is not a pass to success. We still need to present the solutions to our targeted public, in a convincing way. According to one Simon Sinek, the best approach is that of the “Golden Circles”.
This method is all about explaining first, WHY we are in business, trying to find solutions to our target customers. Then, we tell them HOW we intend to get to the right solution. And ultimately, we show them WHAT we have put together to fit their needs and expectations.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” –Simon Sinek
The general idea here is that people tend to react positively and associate with people sharing their beliefs and values. This method is supported by Everett Rogers’ “Law of Diffusion of Innovation”. Rogers explains how 16% of the early adopters of a solution, are “believers”. They act because they trust the organization, no matter the accuracy of the solution. Therefore, from a commercial standpoint, the faster we convert “early adopters”, the sooner we can approach the 34% “early majority”.
In other words, the value proposition is a promise made to the consumers, to efficiently address their needs. Because it is a question of principles.
COULD WE BE WITNESSING THE END OF A MODEL?!
2019 consumer is demanding, and he/she makes sure to let businesses know. He or she, is well informed, so he or she expects transparency from organizations. He/she is connected, so he/she expects interaction.
It is easy to (wrongly) pin such consumer behaviors on the millennials. But is it really, only a generational matter? The Internet, the globalization of urban cultures and some lifestyles, have widely contributed to changing consumption trends. Hence, 2019 consumers want the satisfaction of their needs to become priorities to businesses. They want altogether, quality, authenticity and proximity. In the meantime, they expect personalized solutions to fit every aspects of their needs. 2019 consumers request performant, ethical and sustainable products and services, and of course, live updates. Last but not least, nowadays consumers are mobile and intend to be connected where and when they feel like it…
ABOUT LISTENING TO THE CUSTOMERS…
Listening to the customers, understanding their actual pains, has become the basis for sustainable commercial relationships. I do believe this is a very good thing. Because the temptation to generalize people needs, or even fabricate them, remains an ancient, yet very actual phenomenon. Eventually, I do trust that our collective intelligence will relegate such behaviors to a small part of the business world…
So, what am I saying here? Well, salespeople, marketing people…please, get out of your offices and come into the real world, because it is were life happens! Get real already! #JustSaying 😉