When Promotional Materials Get in the Way of a Sale

By Mike Lessiter
President, Lessiter Media

Every organization, and every salesperson, subscribes to its own sales M.O. But if you’re in the business of selling a service or an expertise more so than a physical widget, the best supplementary sales tool is not a catalog, piece of literature or even a price book. 

Nope. Your best tool is … wait for it … old-fashioned sales skills.

And one could argue that even when the product is a physical widget, the augmented purchase is something different. Let’s say it’s a cast iron bearing. Yes, the customer needs that bearing produced and machined to spec, but what the customer is buying is peace of mind — that the metallurgy is correct, the quality protocols ensure a worry-free product and that it will be provided on time and not slow down the company’s operations. Yes, the bearing is physical, but the rest of the “augmented product” is all about a transaction of confidence, trust and rapport from the seller.

Assuming a few basic needs are in place, successfully selling “the invisible” is about passion, listening to the customer’s need and the development of personal trust. This is accomplished via conversations, probing questions and most important, the promise that the customer will personally get your absolute best shot – or you’ll make it right in the end.

Old news, right? Well, I’ve seen my share of salespeople move too quickly to emailing a piece of literature — just because it exists for them to do so. I found that having a fancy sales proposal "at the ready" is no better than a coin flip to completing a deal. (And if I’m being honest, the quickest way I, as company president, get a vendor off the phone is to ask them to send me something to review later.)

Altered Sales Approach. I still dabble a bit in sales at Lessiter Media. If I can’t execute a “perfect for your business” sale over the phone, my next play is a carefully “customized” proposal — acknowledging the customer’s problems and/or objections voiced minutes earlier. I find this approach, with simple and direct communication, is a much easier and quicker way to cut through red tape or inertia.  

See the 2 scenarios below. Which are most often followed by your sales teams?

You see, if the client says, “Send me something,” you’ve often lost before you’ve started. Relying on the customer’s ability to open a PDF is passive and removes all imagination from the sales closing formula. When selling services, you need them to “feel something.” Passion, innovation and emotions cannot come through via a PDF. 

Anyone who wants to find a reason not to do something will find it. And the inverse is also true. If they confidently believe in a service that addresses key objectives and needs, and they believe in you personally, they’ll find a way to give you and a reasonable proposal a try.

The passion and excitement of a salesperson who believes in the product can never be appropriately captured in a piece of literature. And the mere presence of an already-prepared (and clearly mass-marketed message) in the salesperson’s hands can actually get in the way of what could have been a targeted and customized proposal with just 10 minutes more of your time.

When selling the invisible, the customer’s own idea or vision of your product is more important than any facts and figures can be. And it keeps the salesperson in the batter’s box, rather than walking back to the dugout to start over another day.

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