Vitamins or Painkillers?

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Vitamins or PainkillersAmong the digital sellers I train and coach, one of the most common complaints is the lack of urgency and action by seemingly interested customers. The refrain goes like this: After an instructive, engaged sales call, the client gives all the right ‘go’ signals, saying how promising it all is, identifying team members who might be involved in follow up, speaking to next steps. Then the foot-dragging begins. There are other priorities for the tech team…the budget has gone from certain to questionable… or there are just long periods of non-communication or silence.

So what the hell happened? It’s possible that your client was feigning interest or peddling false hope. More likely you were selling vitamins when you should have been selling painkillers.

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Often we tell our clients about the terrific solutions that will make them better marketers, save them money, streamline their operations and more. And they are indeed all good, desirable things. Like regular dental checkups or better nutrition or finally cleaning out your attic. They are vitamins. As good as they are for you, nothing awful is going to happen if you wait a few more days or weeks to start taking them. And in the interim someone else comes along with another bottle of vitamins – and hey, those sound pretty great too!

Painkillers are another story. Suffering under a crushing headache, you buy the painkillers NOW – even if you’re paying a huge premium for the little foil packet of ibuprofen at the airport. Pain doesn’t wait; it demands and calls attention to itself. And your solution might actually be a painkiller that your sales and marketing teams have been mislabeling.

The key to selling your service as a painkiller is remarkably simple. First, say a lot less. If you have to spend an hour and dozens of slides to explain it, then any connection to pain and immediacy and urgency is going to get lost under the weight of it all. Second, identify the pain in your client’s life really early in the discussion; like right off the bat.   Third, put a price tag and a clock on the problem you’ve diagnosed and introduce a competitor. For instance:

“Your lack of good data is preventing you from reaching two out of every five qualified customers. We estimate that for every week you wait to improve your visibility you’re surrendering $2 million in sales to competitor X.”

Don’t freak out if you don’t have perfect certainty about your clients pain. They probably don’t either. But if you’re going into meetings not even curious about what hurts, then you’re just out there telling people stuff. And you’ll never sell anything but vitamins.

Special thanks to my friend Joe Pych, CEO of NextMark and Bionic Advertising Systems, who gave me the idea for this post and who shares sales ideas with me all the time.  Also, the idea has appeared on several websites and in many magazines and articles over the year.  I’m just the latest to offer it.

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