I sit down with the customer and go through all the benefits that our solution offers. I share how it streamlines their invoices and increases their customer response time.
Additionally they will see a productivity increase of 22%. The customer is nodding the whole time.
I’m feeling pumped – he’s going to buy! I ask him if he’s ready to make the commitment and he says- give me a couple of days to think about it. I feel good.
I go back to the office and enter the opportunity into Salesforce at 90% probability. In other words, I’m sure it will close.
The next day we have our weekly sales call and my sales manager asks the obvious question. Will it close next week? My response – I’m hoping we get it in 3 days. My manager’s response, “Stu – hope is not a sales strategy!”
I think we all go through the same thing from time to time. The customer is nodding, we give the benefits, we’re optimistic because we see the benefits and we’re sure it’s obvious to them too!
Well, not always. There’s something missing – linkage.
I highly recommend the book, Hope Is Not a Strategy by Rick Page. Here’s what Rick says,
“The process of connecting our advantages to their business problems is called linkage. It drives both competitive advantage and value. Linkage of benefits into personal agendas drives individual preference.”
Today’s business climate is intensely competitive, which requires us to directly and easily link our competitive advantage to the customer’s value – and we can’t assume that they see it as we do. We must help them understand how our solution actually increases productivity or increases customer response time; we have to connect the dots for them.
That is linkage.
Why is it important? Because the better we can connect, or link, our solution to their specific business need, the more likely we are to get the business. And, the more likely there will be a bigger budget available. Generic needs generate lower closing rates and lower budgets.
Rick says, “The ability to perform linkage of problems to business solutions is so powerful that often it means you don’t always need product superiority to win (although a sales force does not need a playable hand). You simply need one capability connected to one powerful person at the right time in order to win. This is how you outsell or be outsold.”
The stronger your relationship the less links the sale may require, especially if it’s a high impact need and linkage. It has to go beyond hope!
So let me give you a simple example of linkage. I delivered a training program at a bank in town. At the end they asked, “would you like to open a checking and savings account?”
I replied, “I already have two.”
They said, “We’re different.”
Yet, I would have to drive downtown to make deposits. I had a strong relationship with them, so I was pleased with their response. “Don’t worry about driving downtown. Just take 100 of these envelopes and when you need to make a deposit just endorse your check, put it in the envelope and mail it postage free. When you log in and enter your deposit, it will be good that day.”
Now they had my attention!
“You mean I don’t have to wait 3 business days for my checks to clear, no matter what the amount of the check?”
“That’s right it’s all good the minute you enter it into the system.”
My response? “Where do I sign?”
What just happened?
They linked the benefit of an immediate deposit vs. waiting 3 days.
Because of my relationship with them, I only needed them to link that one benefit for me to become their customer.
Make sure you understand what is really important to the customer and then link your benefit to what they perceive as value.
PS – For more information about the value of financial benefits for your customers, read this article from Customer Centric, “The Missing Link – Uncovering the True Value of Financial Benefits,” by Jim Naro.