The Confused customer says “No”

Lessons from walking the World Pork Expo

Walking through the World Pork Expo in Des Moines last week, I couldn’t help but wonder how a swine producer makes their decisions on product lines.  I felt this same way as I walked through the Info Ag Conference in St. Louis last year.  Aisle after aisle of booths.  All with great products.  All with great marketing material.  All with salespeople who were eager to explain their products.      

Yet, I wondered as a swine producer (end-user of the products on display), how would they decide between one software platform to another or one nutritional supplement to another.  I decided to do somewhat of an experiment.  Selecting the barn management software booths, I stopped at each to see what they had to offer. 

The salesperson generally engaged in discussion quickly and began to tell me about his or her company.  After a minute or so, I would break in and ask this one question.  “Hey, I’ve been walking the show for a couple of hours, and there seem to be half a dozen or more software platforms like this.  Are they all kind of the same, doing the same thing, or are there some different categories?” 

Most of the time, they would respond with, “Let me show you what this program does.”  From there, they would walk me through their demo screen or handout they had on display. 

Sounds good”, I would reply.  “But how does this stack up versus all the other software programs out there?  Why would I go with this program and not one of the others in here?”

Few of the booths could give a complete explanation.  Most often, the conversation would go back to their program.  The reason is simple.  If you don’t know about the other programs, you don’t feel comfortable talking about them.  You will eventually turn your selling conversations back to a subject you know: you and your products.  This does not help the confused customer.

Maybe it is because there are so many different software products out there in this space.  Maybe it would be exhausting to try and keep up with all of them. 

But that is what customers need In a confusing marketplace, customers say no.  They back away from sales presentations.  They may even act interested but then somehow find a reason to delay.  These are signs that your customer is confused.  They aren’t clear on all the platforms or which one is the best one.

This is especially true in software as it might only do one component of your operation: production, financial controls, workflows, etc.

Customers are looking for someone that can be a trusted advisor on software.  Yes, you’re going to try and sell them your software.  Hopefully and only if it is in their best interest.  If not, the integrity you show by being an advisor to them will come back to you when they are ready to buy. 

Let me ask you this way.  Do you want to buy from the salesperson that does the best job of showing you how great their product is or the salesperson who has broad industry knowledge of the product line and helps you understand how to be a better buyer of software? 

Questions & Thoughts:

  1.  How do my products, services, and software fit into the market? 
  2.  Who is the ideal candidate for them?
  3.  How do my products help them more or less than the competition? Don’t let customers figure this out on their own.  If you know, share it in your discussions.  The increased integrity will build trust.
  4. What are the major categories of vendors in my product line?  In our software example, it might be production records, financial software, workflow management software, or total enterprise. 
  5. After you explain those primary categories, break down the key players and why people buy from them.  Again, this may seem counterproductive to tell customers why so many people buy from your competition.  However, they know who the competition is and you’re better off being their advisor in this scenario than their salesperson.  If you sell CRM software and you avoid comparing it to Salesforce, you really showed your customer that you are not informed or you are overly biased towards your product.  The first Google search on CRM is going to light up with Salesforce hits.  I would much rather have the conversation right then and there with them on how my CRM stacks up.  As opposed to having them find out later and possibly lose trust in you.
  6. The big picture and then down into the weeds:  This concept is never more important than in software products.  We love the detail.  We love to show all the features of our software: tabs, search options, integrated data, customized to your farm, etc.  That is down in the weeds.  At a trade show, with 10 other similar vendors, your customers are at the 30,000-foot level.  There are hundreds of booths and dozens of presentations.  They need the 30,000-foot explanation so they can remember who you were.  Capture interest by being an advisor more than a product vendor.  Then you can get the appointment to drop down into the weeds with your features.

Best of luck at your next trade show.  It’s great that they are up and running.  Full staff at the booths and solid attendance.  Always remember the tremendous cost it took to get you to the trade show.  Make the best of it while there.

As always, I practice what I preach.  When sales leaders are looking for a sales training program, coaching for their team, or a speaker for their meeting, I don’t shy away from how I fit into their plans versus other major training companies.  If the subject doesn’t come up, I will often bring it up.  I want to have that discussion with them versus letting them discover it on their own.  If you would like to discuss a training, coaching, or speaking program, please reach out. 

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