Once the problems and needs of the buyer have been identified, the presentation follows as a natural consequence. The first question to be addressed is presentation of what? The preceding section has enabled the salesperson to choose the most appropriate product(s) from their range to meet customer requirements. Second, having fully discussed what the customer wants, the salesperson knows which product benefits to stress
A given product may have a range of potential features which confer benefits to customers, but different customers place different priorities on them. In short, having identified the needs and problems of the buyer, the presentation provides the opportunity for the salesperson to convince the buyer that they can supply the solution. The key to this task is to recognize that buyers purchase benefits and are only interested in product features in as much as they provide the benefits that the customer is looking for. Examples of the relationship between certain product features and benefits.
Training programs and personal preparation of salespeople should pay particular attention to deriving the customer benefits which their products bestow. Benefits should be analyzed at two levels: those benefits that can be obtained by purchase of a particular type of product, and those that can be obtained by purchasing that product from a particular supplier. For example, automatic washing machine salespeople need to consider the benefits of an automatic washing machine compared with a twin-tub, as well as the benefits that their company’s automatic washing machines have over competitors’ models. This proffers maximum flexibility for the salesperson in meeting various sales situations. The danger of selling features rather than benefits is particularly acute in industrial selling because of the highly technical nature of many industrial products, and the tendency to employ sales engineers rather than salespeople
Perkins Diesels found this to be a problem with their sales team after commissioning market research to identify strengths and weaknesses of their sales and marketing operation, but it is by no means confined to this sector. Hi-fi salespeople who confuse and infuriate customers with tedious descriptions of the electronic wizardry behind their products are no less guilty of this sin. A simple method of relating features and benefits in a sales presentation is to link them by using the following phrases:
- ‘which means that’
- ‘which results in’
- ‘which enables you to’. For example, an estate agent might say, ‘The house is situated four miles from the company where you work (product feature) which means that you can easily be at work within fifteen minutes of leaving home’ (customer benefit).
An office salesperson might say, ‘The XYZ photocopier allows stream feeding (product feature) which results in quicker photocopying’ (customer benefit). Finally, a car salesperson may claim, ‘This model is equipped with overdrive (product feature) which enables you to reduce petrol consumption on motorways’ (customer benefit). The term ‘presentation’ should not mislead the salesperson into believing that they alone should do all the talking. The importance of asking questions is not confined to the needs and problem identification stage. Asking questions as part of the presentation serves two functions. First, it checks that the salesperson has understood the kinds of benefits the buyer is looking for. After explaining a benefit it is sound practice to ask the buyer, ‘Is this the kind of thing you are looking for?’ Second, asking questions establishes whether the buyer has understood what the salesperson has said. A major obstacle to understanding is the use of technical jargon that is unintelligible to the buyer. Where a presentation is necessarily complicated and lengthy, the salesperson would be well advised to pause at various points and simply ask if there are any questions. This gives the buyer the opportunity to query anything that is not entirely clear. This questioning procedure allows the salesperson to tailor the speed and content of their presentation to the circumstances. Buyers have different backgrounds, technical expertise and intelligence levels. Questioning allows the salesperson to communicate more effectively because it provides the information necessary for the seller to know how to vary the presentation to different buyers. Technological advances have greatly assisted the presentation. For example, laptops allow the use of online resources such as video material and the ability to get a response from a sales office during a presentation. Access to company websites permits the carrying of masses of product information, including sound and animation. Many sales situations involve risk to the buyer. No matter what benefits the salesperson discusses, the buyer may be reluctant to change from the present supplier or present model because to do so may give rise to unforeseen problems – delivery may be unpredictable or the new model may be unreliable. Assurances from the salesperson are, of themselves, unlikely to be totally convincing – after all, they would say that, wouldn’t they! Risk is the hidden reason behind many failures to sell. The salesperson accurately identifies customer needs and relates product benefits to those needs. The buyer does not offer much resistance, but somehow does not buy; a likely reason is that the buyer plays safe, sticking to the present supplier or model in order to lessen the risk of aggravation should problems occur. How, then, can a salesperson reduce risk? There are four major ways:
(a) Reference selling;
(c) Guarantees; and
(d) Trial orders.
Reference selling involves the use of satisfied customers in order to convince the buyer of the effectiveness of the salesperson’s product. During the preparation stage Sales technique a list of satisfied customers, arranged by product type, should be drawn up. Letters from satisfied customers should also be kept and used in the sales presentation in order to build confidence. This technique can be highly effective in selling, moving a buyer from being merely interested in the product to being convinced that it is the solution to their problem.
Demonstrations Chinese proverb: Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.
Demonstrations also reduce risk because they prove the benefits of the product. A major producer of sales training films organises regional demonstrations of a selection in order to prove their quality to training managers. Industrial goods manufacturers will arrange demonstrations to show their products’ capabilities in use. Car salespeople will allow customers to test drive cars. For all but the most simple of products it is advisable to divide the demonstration into two stages. The first stage involves a brief description of the features and benefits of the product and an explanation of how it works. The second stage entails the actual demonstration itself. This should be conducted by the salesperson. The reason behind this two-stage approach is that it is often very difficult for the viewers of the demonstration to understand the principles of how a product works while at the same time watching it work. This is because the viewers are receiving competing stimuli. The salesperson’s voice may be competing for the buyers’ attention with the flashing lights and noise of the equipment. Once the equipment works, the buyers can be encouraged to use it themselves under the salesperson’s supervision. If the correct equipment, to suit the buyers’ needs, has been chosen for demonstration and performs reliably, the demonstration can move the buyers very much closer to purchase. There now follows more practical advice on what must be regarded as an extremely important part of the personal selling process, for without a demonstration the salesperson is devoid of one of their principal selling tools.
- Make the process as brief as possible, but not so brief as not to be able to fulfil the sales objective of obtaining an order, or of opening the way for further negotiations. It is basically a question of balance, in that the salesperson must judge the individual circumstances and tailor the demonstration accordingly. Some potential buyers will require lengthier or more technical demonstrations than others.
- Make the process as simple as possible, bearing in mind that some potential purchasers will be less technically minded than others. Never ‘over-pitch’ such technicality, because potential buyers will generally pretend that they understand and not want to admit that they do not because of loss of face. They will see the demonstration through and probably make some excuse at the end to delay the purchase decision. The likelihood is that they will not purchase (or at least purchase from you). This point is deliberately emphasised because it is a fact that many potential sales are lost through overly technical demonstrations.
- Rehearse the approach to likely objections with colleagues (e.g. with one acting as an ‘awkward’ buyer). Work out how such objections can be addressed and overcome through the demonstration. The use of interactive video is useful here, as you can review your mistakes and rehearse a better demonstration and presentation.
- Know the product’s selling points and be prepared to advance these during the course of the demonstration. Such selling points must, however, be presented in terms of benefits to the customer. Buyer behaviour must therefore be ascertained beforehand. By so doing, it will be possible to maximise what is euphemistically called the ‘you’ or ‘u’ benefits.
- The demonstration should not go wrong if it has been adequately rehearsed beforehand. However, machines do break down and power supplies sometimes fail. Be prepared for such eventualities (e.g. rehearse an appropriate verbal ‘routine’ and have a back-up successful demonstration available on your laptop). The main point is not to be caught out unexpectedly and to be prepared to launch into a contingency routine as smoothly as possible.
- Commence with a concise statement of what is to be done or proved.
- Show how potential purchasers can participate in the demonstration process.
- Make the demonstration as interesting and as satisfying as possible.
- Show the potential purchaser how the product’s features can fulfil their needs or solve their problems.
- Attempt to translate such needs into a desire to purchase.
- Do not leave the purchaser until they are completely satisfied with the demonstration. Such satisfaction will help to justify ultimate expenditure and will also reduce the severity and incidence of any complaints that might arise after purchasing.
- Summarize the main points by re-emphasizing the purchasing benefits that have been put forward during the demonstration. Note that we state purchasing benefits and not sales benefits because purchasing benefits relate to individual buying behavior.
- The objectives of a demonstration should be:
(a) To enable the salesperson to obtain a sale immediately (e.g. a car demonstration drive given to a member of the public); or
(b) To pave the way for future negotiations (e.g. a car demonstration drive given to a car fleet buyer).
- Depending on the objective above, in the case of
(a) Ask for the order now, or in the case of
(b) Arrange for further communication in the form of a meeting, telephone call, letter, an additional demonstration to other members of the decision-making unit, etc. Information technology can allow multi-media demonstrations of industrial products in the buyer’s office. No longer is it always necessary for buyers to visit the supplier’s site or to provide facilities to act as video ‘show rooms’ for salespeople wishing to demonstrate their product using video projectors.
- Demonstrations are a useful ancillary in the selling process. They add realism to the sales routine in that they utilize more human senses than mere verbal descriptions or visual presentation.
- When a potential customer is participating in a demonstration, it is easier for the salesperson to ask questions in order to ascertain buying behavior. This means that the salesperson will not need to emphasize inappropriate purchasing motives later in the selling process.
- Such demonstrations enable the salesperson to maximize the ‘u’ benefits to potential purchasers. In other words, the salesperson can relate product benefits to match the potential buyer’s buying behaviour and adopt a more creative approach, rather than concentrating on a pre-prepared sales routine.
- Customers’ objections can be more easily overcome if they can be persuaded to take part in the demonstration process. In fact, many potential objections may never even be aired because the demonstration process will make them invalid. It is a fact that a sale is more likely to ensue if fewer objections can be advanced initially, even if such objections can be satisfactorily overcome.
- There are advantages to customers in that it is easier for them to ask questions in a more realistic way in order to ascertain the product’s utility more clearly and quickly.
- Purchasing inhibitions are more quickly overcome and buyers declare their purchasing interest sooner than in face-to-face selling/buying situations. This makes the demonstration a very efficient sales tool.
- Once a customer has participated in a demonstration there is less likelihood of ‘customer remorse’ (i.e. the doubt that value for money is not good value after all). By taking part in the demonstration and tacitly accepting its results, the purchaser has bought the product and not been sold it.
Demonstration is the core of the selling process. The sales person actually transmits the information and attempts to persuade the prospect through product demonstration to make a customer. Two factors should be taken into consideration in preparing an effective product demonstration:
- The demonstration should be carefully rehearsed to reduce the possibility of even a minor malfunction.
- The demonstration should be designed to give customers ‘hand on’ experience with the product wherever possible. For example an industrial sales representative might arrange a demonstration before the purchaser’s technical personnel.