This kind of attitude is not unique to high-tech firms, but it was definitely a dominant theme one day last week when I was a guest at a discussion group for technology companies selling into health care.
There was a fascinating discussion about what is happening in health care and how technology is changing the landscape in this rapidly changing environment.
Yet, despite these great opportunities, there was a lot of discussion of how prospects in this industry don’t really understand what is being offered by these technology firms, there was much complaining about their un-willingness to take risks and in general it sounded like the customers were to blame for a lot of the problems these firms were experiencing.
It sounded to me like many of these firms had got it backwards. They had fallen in love with their products instead of their customers. It’s not your customers’ responsibility to understand what you sell and how it could help them, it’s yours. This is one of the most fundamental principles of marketing.
These firms didn’t understand their customers’ needs as clearly as they should, and as a result blamed the customers when the sales didn’t materialize.
The only way to sell is to start from the prospect’s side. If you don’t, you’ll generally get the same result as these unfortunate firms.
Starting from the prospect’s side means you can’t pitch a solution simply because you think it is a good idea. Or talk about how wonderful you or your products are. No one cares and there are hundreds of firms who offer the same undifferentiated “stuff” you do.
You have to stop talking about yourself. We’ve all been trapped by people like this at social events. In that environment it may be difficult for you to get away, but not so for the sales prospect, they will just ignore you.
You have to remember no one wants to be sold, so you have to approach it from the perspective of serving the customer.
A good mindset is “You Matter. Your well being is important to me. Let me see how I can help!“
This mindset forces you to focus on the customer first and for your firm to become the champion of your customers and prospects ultimately making certain you are their most trusted supplier, because you leave them in a better condition than when you started. From this position it is much easier to gain acceptance of your ideas.
So how do you begin this process?
The first step is to convince your prospects to give you their attention.
The only way you can do this is if your marketing messages speak to their desires, frustrations and fears. You must convince them you are worth spending time with or that your web site is worth visiting.
You have to be different than your competitors. If you are saying essentially the same thing, you become indistinguishable in the crowd.
A good headline for a letter, brochure or web site is a good start…but it is not enough. You have to have substance that will keep them involved with you, either reading your letters, listening to your suggestions or reading what’s on your web site.
You can only do this if you provide value. Not simply that you have a great product or service, but how you can help them solve a problem. Good products are a table stake in business and bad products don’t stay around very long.
The moment prospects no longer perceive value, you lose them. There are too many competing messages out there, to expect them to listen to you any longer than it takes them to decide you are worth listening to, or to cut and run.
Testimonials are critical for new products and services. Social proof is very effective in encouraging undecided people to move forward. Few people want to be pioneers unless the risk is very low. The newer the product, the greater the perceived risk!
You have to find ways to remove the risk, if not; you may have a great product or service that never sees the light of day. It may even be necessary to work free on occasion in exchange for testimonials, if what you have is unproven. Think of it as a marketing cost.
You also have to convince prospects that what you offer is at least good value, but better still a bargain. You do this by making dramatic comparisons with the current situation and presenting this information in a compelling way.
Finally, you have to make it very easy for them to buy. You can do this with extended payment terms, limited offers to early adopters, guarantees and other incentives.
Only when you demonstrate in believable ways that you have your prospects’ interests at heart and are intent on helping them make the right decision, will you reduce the resistance to your products and services.