I once met with a person offering negotiation training - apparently the best in Europe. We sat down, and I spent the next hour hearing about the superiority, attractiveness, reliability and other advantages of their offer. After 10 minutes I was slightly surprised by their lack of interest in how our company works or what we need. After 20 minutes I was slightly bored, and after 40 I began to be irritated. At the end of the conversation, I knew that I wouldn’t buy anything from this salesperson. And it was not about his offer, but about the way it was presented.

You certainly know the pattern: The salesperson meets the client, and as soon as the client expresses interest in the offer, the salesperson immediately goes on about the advantages of the product or service, benefits, conditions, etc. They try to show their best cards as soon as possible, before the client gets bored. Unfortunately, this approach has the opposite effect.

The above example seems quite obvious, but think about how often business conversations look somewhat like this:

- Good morning! I represent X. I’d like to present...

- And what about the conditions?

- Well, our offer...

And the presentation begins.

Of course, these first sentences may be different. The client might have started the conversation. That doesn’t change the fact that the client will ask about what seems important to them, i.e. the conditions. Sometimes they’ll ask a few technical questions, but even a salesperson who’s trying to sell something will ‘run through’ the description as soon as possible to try to get to the finish line, that is, to make a sale.

In extreme cases it may look like this:

- Good morning, is your product blue?

- Oh yes. It’s very blue. I’ll tell you more, it’s all blue, even the parts you can’t see are blue.

- That’s a shame. Because I’d like a little pink too.

- Ah, pink ... But you know, it’s painted with a special paint that looks a pink when you look at it from a certain angle...

You probably know it too. Is this an effective approach? And how do we feel when another salesperson treats us that way? It’s irritating, right? We feel like we’re being treated objectively. After a while, we see that the salesperson isn’t focused on helping us, but on squeezing us into whatever has the highest margin.

Never assume that you know what the client needs!

It’s not just that the client may want something surprising. It’s also about letting the client feel that you’re listening to them. That you’re interested in them. THEM! And not your sales.

Only when you know the most important need the client wants to address with your product can you start the presentation.

Focus on what you know the client is interested in, and nothing more. I know that your product has many advantages. However, consider whether the client is interested in only one aspect; it may mean that that aspect is very important to them. By focusing on that, you’ll have the best chance of closing the deal. Each additional argument doesn’t bring you closer to a deal, but only makes the client aware that they still have to think about their decision. The exceptions are situations in which the client doesn’t know what values and benefits are associated with your offer (though this is rare), or when the client obviously wants to hurt himself (e.g. they want to buy a vacation in Iceland, because their wife loves sunny beaches and warm water).

Let’s assume that you thoroughly understand the client’s needs. You know what brought them to you and what kind of emotions they need to satisfy. Or perhaps you know that the client didn’t even know that they need what you offer, but the relationship that you’ve built is so strong that the client no longer treats you as someone to defend themselves against. When you see trust and interest from your client, move on to the presentation, but don’t abuse that trust.

How to present a product or service

  1. Start with a story that isn’t too obvious

    Don’t start with the product features, but with how the product was created. How the company works. What path led you to where you are now? What are your values? This first story may also be about you - about how you work, about what’s important to you. Why are you convinced of your product or company?

    If you’re building a community of ambassadors for your brand, you want them to recommend you. This story is meant to be ‘fuel’ for recommendations, to create a bond between you and the client and to engage them enough that they brag about it, that they pass on information about you or your product in their network of contacts. This becomes especially important if the product you offer is an everyday, standard item or service, something that’s difficult to associate with strong emotions.

    Why should this story be at the very beginning of the presentation? After all, the client is interested in the product, not a story.

    Once you get to the product features or the transaction details, the client will be focused on the elements which represent their immediate need. You don’t have any more chance to build a connection. It’s just like with personal relationships - you can only make first impression once.

    Imagine a conversation between a client speaking to an insurance agent about life insurance. If the agent focuses on the offer, the client will only be interested in the number and the details, and the only thing they’ll remember about the agent and the company he represents is that his offer was too expensive. The opposite is also true - you probably don’t want to be recommended just because your offer is cheap. But when the client learns the history of the company you represent and finds something that they can identify with, it may turn out that that story leads them to purchase. The price may then be of little importance, as it will be followed by values important to the client, such as tradition, family, trust, security, credibility, etc. In this way, you escape the paradigm where purchase conditions are the most important element influencing the client’s decision.

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