Product-Oriented versus Customer-Oriented
Experienced sales managers know that their team’s sales presentations should orient their messages toward the customer rather than the product. Yet research shows that salespeople regularly stumble headlong into a product-oriented approach when making sales presentations. Why are their sales presentations missing the mark?
In a customer survey, our microlearning experts found that buyers want only 22% of presentation time dedicated to the product, but sellers on average spend 56% of their presentation discussing their products. What buyers would like is for salespeople to spend 51% of their presentation time explaining how the proposed solution will directly drive the buyer’s business.
And yet salespeople spend only 24% of the time doing that.
The following study by marketing professors at three universities — North Alabama, Memphis, and Mississippi — confirms these findings.
Attitude Gap Between Sellers and Buyers
The researchers examined seller and buyer attitudes toward sales presentations by interviewing separate groups of consultative salespeople and B2B buyers. The questions focused on two areas: how knowledgeable salespeople appeared, and how well they tailored their sales presentations to their buyers.
After analyzing the responses, the researchers concluded that buyer and seller attitudes toward presentations differed radically.
Seller Mistake #1: Over-Indexing on Product Knowledge
One big disconnect was in the area of knowledge.
According to the research, sellers felt that product training was critical and that they needed to be the most knowledgeable about the features and benefits of their own products. But for buyers, product knowledge is a given. They said salespeople differentiate themselves by gaining knowledge about the buyer’s organization and products, and how the seller’s products would benefit the buyer.
Here’s how one buyer put it: “If I ask a salesperson how well their product will integrate with my current system and all they do is go back to talking about what a great product it is, then I have no use for them.”
Seller Mistake #2: Misaligned Sales Presentation Expectations
Sellers and buyers also disagreed on how sales presentations should be structured.
The research noted that sellers wanted their presentations to be highly interactive – an exchange of views between seller and buyer elicited by strategic sales questioning. But buyers said they preferred a “just the facts” approach in presentations. Several said they wanted straightforward expositions of a product or service’s strengths and weaknesses. They could then decide on their own whether to buy.
But shouldn’t buyers want salespeople to ask questions? Sure. But they want interactive Q&As to take place earlier in the sales process, in sales discovery, not during the presentation to whoever’s in charge of buying.
Why Do Sellers Miscalculate So Badly?
Why do salespeople fall back on the old product-centered paradigm despite themselves? Four possible reasons:
The Bottom Line
If you think about these errors and can see yourself making them, consider yourself warned! Are your sales presentations missing the mark? They may be the opposite of what your buyers want.
To learn more about how to deliver more effective sales presentations, download How to Win High Stakes Sales Presentations
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