What can we do to position ourselves to be the partner of choice with our customers and prospects this coming year? Let’s address three key issues when approaching your market: (1) value proposition, (2) how personality impacts on reasons to buy, (3) seeing from your customers’ perspective.
First and foremost, we need to revisit our value proposition during these times. What worked prior to 2008 might be the wrong strategy moving forward. Customers have different priorities and strategies when economic times are challenging. Your value proposition is what uniquely differentiates you from your competition. It needs to address both the real and the self-perceived needs of your customer. What is their main priority – beyond survival? How do they plan to pull ahead in these turbulent times? Is it their plan to increase revenue, cut expenses, or increase customer satisfaction?
Fine tune your value proposition specifically to each and every customer, knowing that each customer has a unique set of needs and plans for their projects moving forward. Be specific in what you are offering and make sure you can be explicit with tangible value. Provide references that back up your statements on short term successes inside your customers. Show them how your product and services increased revenues 15% or cut expenses 10% in the first six months of use.
Second, customers buy for two reasons – personal and business. Overall these split 50/50, but specific to your customer personality style and their current circumstances this weighting varies. We know that people that are right brain dominant usually lean towards the personal side: looking more at the intangibles and the subjective reasons to purchase. These are the Orange and Blue personalities. The Green and Gold personalities, being left brain dominant, will lean more towards the business side, the tangible and objective reasons in their decisions. However, the economic issues we face today can change behavior in personality styles. In periods of FUD and downturn, all personality styles lean towards the business issues at hand.
Why? Executive management mandating cut backs in budget and a refocusing of their efforts can cause a change in priorities. Their personality styles have not changed, but the environmental pressures on them have changed. Discover what has changed for them. Perhaps, with revenues uncertain or turning down, cash is king and keeping expenses under control is paramount with your customers. Alternatively, perhaps they see the downturn as an opportunity to gain ground against weaker competitors. Understand your customer’s priorities and don’t present benefits of your solution that don’t matter right now. Find and present the benefits that do. Your value proposition is your trump card.
However, decisions are still made by people and people also react individually to our economic downturn and increased pressures from management. It is more important than ever to discover who makes the buy recommendations and the ultimate buy decision – and ease their worries. How does each personality color respond to fear?
– Blues fear lack of safety and security: for their business, their colleagues, and themselves. More than ever they want clear, positive messages and directions. Blues despise fear and worry the most; focus on alleviating their fears with compelling value and building trust.
– Gold’s business fears center on financial stress, but their personal fears are about things being out of their control. Golds will overcome these fears themselves; give them the actionable levers to pull.
– Greens business fears are about missing key information but their personal fear is about being wrong with resulting dire consequences. Greens will analyze and assess their fears, over and over again, captured in a loop; give them the information needed to pull out of this loop. Then they will act.
– Oranges fear losing the business and also losing face. Oranges will face their fears head on; leverage their optimism.
Third, remember that it is an easy trap to view each and every sales opportunity through your own eyes: ‘how will gaining this business benefit me?’ More than ever this year, we need to view the issues through our customer’s eyes. How will our service benefit them! Put yourself in their shoes and understand the issues from their perspective. Our priorities are never the same as our customers. Rather than dwell on how long they are taking to make a decision, find out why the delay is occurring. Do not just assume it is the bad economy. Find out their response plans to the bad economy. Look at the situation from their perspective and understand what’s going on internally.
More than ever the internet can be extremely advantageous in finding out inside information on a prospect company: what are their priorities and what changes are taking place. The sales tools and messages that worked in 2008 may not be the tools that work today. If necessary, get your company to engage researchers or business development specialists to help tune your message. A relatively small investment can help focus your value message. Just as investment drives the economy, strategic focus and clear market intelligence information can drive your company’s success via your successful sales.