Selling value not productSince returning to Singapore and getting back into the flow of business life, one aspect of doing business has come up again. It is the main reason our Company offers sales training for people in the marketing services business. Marketing services is anything in the marketing and communications field, where you are selling a concept that will help businesses achieve their marketing and communications goals. So marketing, advertising, events, communications, multi-media, social media, and so on.

During my time at IDC I worked with a great sales team who knew how to sell market research. However, when I tried to get them to “sell” marketing concepts, like events or whitepapers, they were often stumped. They did not understand how to sell the value my services delivered to companies. It made sense because they were sales people, not marketing people, but still, if they couldn’t sell the value, they couldn’t sell what I offered.

I spent a lot of time in sales meetings back then, because our clients needed someone who understood their language and could talk about appropriate solutions to help them achieve their goals.

There were many times in those days when we’d go in with something specific to offer the client, but it quickly became apparent that what we had in mind was not going to work. They key thing is to always ask the client what they want to achieve and who they are trying to reach up front. Often I would say “we came to talk to you about this, but I don’t think it is appropriate given what you are trying to achieve.” The sales person would often squirm in their seat and want to kick me under the table, but if it didn’t fit, it didn’t fit.

The great thing about this is you go in with one idea, but if you listen to what they want, you can propose other ideas. It’s also important to consider offering alternatives that you don’t even offer, because while you might not get any business, you will gain credibility and that means business down the track. People will always come back to someone who had great ideas and will want to work with them when the time is right. Marketing people are always looking for partners NOT solutions + people who will make them look good internally.

It’s not always about winning business today – especially in the marketing services field. It’s about winning a reputation for really understanding your clients/potential clients’ needs and then coming up with creative marketing ideas to meet those needs. I know this sounds terribly simple, but it’s amazing how many people don’t do it. It’s the most basic sales rule: qualify your customer and then sell them the benefits of what you offer._

So always start a meeting by asking them what they are trying to achieve. Always! What are your marketing priorities? Who are you trying to reach? What activities are you considering to achieve those goals?

The second step is to integrate everything they say into everything you present. It’s no good if they tell you this and then you just present what you wanted to say anyway. Bring it all together and make it relevant. Or if it’s not relevant, say so and ask if it would be OK if you quickly ran through your offerings because you are there anyway?

But don’t leave them with nothing. Give them value, new ideas, other options and ideas you can help them with later on. Even if you can’t deliver something to help them now, show them how you can help them in the future.

When you present your company, give a top level overview of who you are (very quickly), then what you do, the benefits you deliver, customer success stories, when it goes wrong why it goes wrong, when it goes right why it goes right, how you learn from mistakes and adapt to market requirements, etc…

And please, no detail – unless they want it. So many people get caught up in such minute detail and it’s really not relevant. Top level, benefits focused, how you can help them, how you can’t.

Let them speak first. Answer to that. If the business isn’t there don’t push what you offer. Build a relationship instead and the business will come. Get yourself in “their head” and over time, you will make sense to them and the business will come. I promise. It’s always worked for me.

Listen, observe, assess, relate and build lasting relationships. You cannot lose if you listen first.

Andrea Edwards

Managing Director

SAJE Pte Ltd