Selling the Invisible

by | Dec 20, 2011 | Prospecting

Many years ago I worked for a company that at the time was believed to be one of the best computer companies in the world- Digital Equipment Corporation. In the mid-80’s we were growing by leaps and bounds even though one of our products lines was not selling as planned. We soon realized that our outstanding engineers were designing computers that ‘they’ thought would be attractive to our customer base. Yet, what we saw was a lack of demand or interest, to say the least. Why? No one ever asked the customer what they wanted. The next time around they asked customers and what the engineering team designed was the very successful: the Micro Vax computer system, which offered low overhead and portability – true benefits to our customers!

We would have been well-served to have first read Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith which is an excellent read. It’s a very simple message on how your customers and prospects see you, yet noting how many companies have a hard time following his message when selling. Let me give you the synthesized message from Selling the Invisible.

Who sets your standards? Is it your industry, your clients or your ego? Many companies truly believe that they build their products and services based on the needs of the customer, like my experience at Digital. Yet you often see that it’s the company’s agenda, profit and goals that take precedence over the needs of what the customer. That would be ego. Companies have the right intentions for their customers but don’t always provide what the customer is truly asking for or needs.

Harry Beckwith says you must position yourself in the prospects mind. This message should be simple and should set you apart from your competitors. What is the one message you can share with your customers that no one else can say ‘me too’? Harry says, ‘your position is a place and it’s your customers and prospects that put you there’. Where do your customers place you?

Another powerful message mentioned is to ‘broaden your appeal and narrow your focus’. I can’t think of a better example than one from our home town of Dallas, Texas – Sewell Lexus. It’s a known fact that Lexus makes a great car and has excellent marketing. In fact if you go to a Texas Rangers or Dallas Cowboys game, you can get free valet parking if you drive a Lexus. Now that’s marketing! But Sewell takes it one step further in an industry that some say is a commodity, is very competitive and has a ‘me too’ mentality. Most of you have come to expect a free rental when you take your Lexus for service. Sewell has taken their service to another level by coming to your home with the rental and picking up your car. Now that’s service!
Customers buy based on how good you are at who you are, according to Harry. You want congruence and authenticity. Your biggest competitor is not a company that sells what you sell. It’s indifference. If your prospects and customers are indifferent about what you deliver, you’re in BIG trouble.

We live in a time where competition is tougher than it’s ever been. There is consistently more supply than demand and the rate of change is accelerating at a pace that is hard to manage. The biggest question you need to ask yourself is ‘why should your customers buy from you’? Your answer needs to be just one sentence. Clear, concise and attractive to anyone that is in the market for your products or services.

– Know your position in the market.
– Keep your message simple.
– Deliver on your promise.