The question of whether to teach salespeople a product pitch, or not, comes up consistently, especially in technology and software sales.  In fact, many organizations start training new hires with standard product pitches and even have competitions to see who has the best pitch.  This article isn’t intended to say that there is no value in salespeople knowing what your product or service does for customers.  It’s not at all.  Let’s step back for a moment before exploring this further.

One fundamental that stands out related to this topic is, “People like to buy…they don’t like to be sold”.  You buy that?  Think about the last major purchase you made.  Did the salesperson put pressure on you and tell you all about the product before finding out what your needs or problems are?  How did it make you feel?  Was it a successful approach?  Think about is this way.  When you go into a doctor’s office, do they tell you every test/pill/procedure that they have to see what you might be interested in?  Or, do they diagnose before prescribing?  Is it all that different with other types of “sales”?

Now, back to the main topic.  There is value in salespeople knowing the product as it enables them to explain to prospects how it might solve their problems.  However, how do we as sellers learn what problems they have?  You got it…we gotta ask.  And we already know this.  The difficulty that we have is how to consistently and effectively ask the RIGHT questions, in context of the prospect’s business, to uncover their challenges.  In the ValueSelling workshops, we talk about using 3 types of questions, Open, Probe, and Confirm.  We won’t get into the specifics here but suffice to say each type of question has a different outcome expected and we use them all in order to help us fully understand the customer’s situation and problem set.  Only then can we, as sellers, begin to align our capabilities (product, service, etc…) to the customer’s problems.  Think about it this way.  Your product or service has a set of capabilities or strengths, right?  In order for these to be relevant, what must they do?  That’s right, they have to solve a problem.  If it doesn’t solve a problem that the customer has (and needs to solve), it’s irrelevant, isn’t it?

Here’s the point.  Product pitches are fine if the outcome is to teach the salespeople of the feature set of the product or solution.  The bigger challenge is teaching them what problems those features solve and the associated value in solving them.  Then, let’s enable the salespeople to ask the RIGHT questions to uncover those problems.  First, find the problems.  Next, align the solution.  If the customer has problems we can help them solve (even better if we do it uniquely or better than anyone else), we have a potential prospect.  If they don’t, that’s OK, move on.  The only way to really find out if they have those problems…we gotta ask.

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As a Vice President of Visualize, Jason helps organizations improve business metrics by creating a better connection with their customer’s definition of value. Following a successful career in sales and sales leadership, Jason has rejoined Visualize and now focuses on refining his client’s selling approach to differentiate; to drive increased revenues, market share and profitability.