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By Kelly Riggs | Sales + Leadership

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Apr 25

3 Reasons Customers Don’t Care About Your Product

by Kelly Riggs

The average salesperson is completely enamored with his/her product.

That must be fairly obvious to customers, who are consistently inundated with feature-dump, product-focused sales presentations that provide little in the way of differentiation and create even less interest. Which, of course, is about the dumbest thing a salesperson can do, since, for a product to be sold, it must fill a void for a customer; otherwise they really wouldn’t care, would they?

So, focusing on the product rather than the void seems a bit misguided, don’t you think?

On the other hand, what you may be missing is there are least three things that your customer cares about WAY more than they care about your product. The first one is simple and obvious, and most salespeople still misfire on it. The other two may not be as obvious, but they’re just as important.

So, while you (or your salespeople) may be product experts (a big assumption), let’s look at three reasons your customers don’t care about your product – at least not as much as you think they do.

1. It’s not the solution, it’s the value that solution provides

If you haven’t heard this, you haven’t been in sales more than a week. This is Sales 101. Go back just about as far as you want, and up to the present, and sales trainers always emphasize that customers don’t really care about your product. What they really care about is what your product will do for them:

“Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” (Joe Vitale attributed this to Elmer Wheeler, born in 1904)

“Customers don’t buy quarter-inch drills, they buy quarter-inch holes. (Ted Levitt, popularized by Zig Ziglar)

People don’t buy your value proposition – they buy your problem statement.” (Charles Green)

And there are tons more. The point is simple: Your solution can be phenomenal, but if the customer doesn’t perceive value, what good is it? They have problems to solve; they need more performance for their money; they need to increase production or trim costs. In most cases, what they really need is an ‘EASY’ button – something to make the job easier.

This is SO basic, it’s seems ridiculous to point it out. However, the problem is that most salespeople are taught everything about the product – are typically required to know the product inside and out – but often receive little training about direct applications of the product and the business problems the product solves.

In one of my conversations with Mark Roberge, former CRO at HubSpot and author of “The Sales Acceleration Formula,” he told me that every new salesperson at HubSpot was required to build a website, create online content, and personally implement the HubSpot marketing software. Why? To learn the product, of course, but also to learn how businesses implement and utilize the product. After all, HubSpot users aren’t buying a software application, they’re buying a lead generation tool, so salespeople probably ought to know how to produce leads with the software.

But what do you do, Mr. Average? You get in front of a customer and blather on about your product and how great it is. You describe every function in painful detail. You’re a verbal product brochure, but way more boring.

If you want to get better immediately, figure out the value your solution provides. Figuring out that value is will require you to determine what problem you need to solve.

That will require you to ask some questions instead of telling everything you know about your product.

2. It’s not the solution, it’s the experience

You go to a new restaurant in your city. From the start, things don’t go well. It takes a while to get a table; even longer to order your food. Glasses sit empty while you wait for your food, and, when it finally arrives, the order isn’t quite right. The food, however, is really quite good. Excellent, as a matter of fact.

So, you give the place a second try.

Ouch. The second time is just as bad. The hostess is borderline rude. They bring you the wrong drink. Your waiter goes AWOL after the food arrives. Still, the food is good. The service, on the other hand, is terrible.

Do you give it a third try? What do you say to someone about the restaurant?

I think you get the point. A good product doesn’t last long if the service and support is lacking. Poor delivery, poor implementation, slow response, unresolved details – all of these failures make the benefits of your product immaterial.

Customers don’t just buy a product, they buy flawless implementation. That’s right – FLAWLESS. You don’t prepare for flawless, because you don’t think it’s necessary. And that’s why your customer is irritated. You think 80 percent is good enough, but I can assure you, if you told your customer the delivery process would be about 80 percent, they would’ve bought from someone else.

Way back when we built our house, there were some issues. You know, things that weren’t quite right. Details that were missed. If you’ve built a house, you know exactly what I mean. When the house was finally finished, one of those issues was the mailbox. It was a brick mailbox and they had screwed it up (if that’s even possible). But, the builder agreed they had made a mess of it, so he sent a crew out to redo it – after we moved into the house.

The crew arrived in the afternoon to do the job, and about 5:00 pm our doorbell rang. It was one of the construction guys, who was letting me know they were finished, but they needed to take off. Well, they weren’t exactly finished. They needed to rush over to another project, so he wanted to know if I could finish troweling the brick mortar in about 30 minutes. Actually, he didn’t so much as ask as he just handed me the tool and left.

But it gets worse. Turns out, the crew hadn’t even bothered to clean up their mess, rewarding us with a nice set of deep tire tracks in the yard where they backed their truck up onto the grass.

I reached the builder, who happened to be close by, so he decided to swing over and see what I was complaining about. He surveyed the mess and just shook his head as he listened to my story. “Well,” he finally said, “you have to understand. You didn’t pay for perfection.”

You know, you really can’t make this stuff up. What exactly did I pay for? 80 percent? 90 percent? To finish the job myself?

Understand this: If your product is phenomenal, and your delivery and implementation are not, your customer is going to be unhappy. They will probably choose to voice their concerns.

The only advice I can give you is don’t tell them they didn’t pay for perfection.

3. It’s not the solution, it’s the salesperson

I’m not just blowing smoke here to pander to salespeople. This is not an unfounded claim. The truth is buyers care about the quality and capabilities of the salesperson more – yes, MORE – than they care about the solution he/she provides.

How do I know? Because HR Chally Group surveyed more than 80,000 buyers and asked them to force-rank four critical items that impact buying decisions. What they wanted to determine was how each factor impacted their decision to buy from a specific company. Those factors were price, quality, the right solution, and the effectiveness of the salesperson.

When all the results were in, price was judged to be the least of the four factors, only 18 percent of the buying decision. That’s all. 18 percent. The thing every salesperson blames for failure.

Is price important? Of course. But it’s not as important as most people think.

Quality was judged to be 21 percent of the decision process. Offering the right solution was another 22 percent.

Remember, this is 80,000 buyers offering their insights as to what motivates a purchasing decision. So, the right product, with the right quality, and the right price, are 61 percent of the decision to buy a product.

The other 39 percent?? The effectiveness of the salesperson.

According to Howard Stevens, CEO of HR Chally and author of “Achieve Sales Excellence,” customers want their salespeople to be responsive, to be personally accountable for their results, to solve problems and provide new applications, and much more.

Those things are even more important than the product you provide.

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About the Author

Kelly Riggs is a business performance coach and founder of the Business LockerRoom. A former national Salesperson of the Year and serial entrepreneur, Kelly is a recognized thought leader in the areas of sales, management leadership, and strategic planning. He serves clients ranging from small, privately held companies to Fortune 500 firms. Kelly has written two books: “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t” and “Quit Whining and Start SELLING! A Step-by-Step Guide to a Hall of Fame Career in Sales.”