You have valuable goods and services, and want to sell, people and organizations have needs, and want to buy. Connecting the two and finding/crafting sales and marketing talent that drives growth is no simple task. To craft a selling strategy, one must first understand the product. I like to categorize based on two factors– complexity and price.
There Are Four Kinds of Products:
First are the low price, low complexity products. Cheeseburgers. Pens and pencils. Toilet paper. Video games. Water bottles. Buyers of these products don’t need a lot of help, they aren’t very concerned with the price unless it is perceived to be exorbitant, and they usually aren’t willing to wait long for delivery or implementation. Selling strategy needs to match these needs. Marketing needs to offer up enough information for buyers to make a decision quickly and without a lot of help. Selling generally takes the form of order taking, person to person selling, or being available and accessible to help immediately if a question arises. Transactions are generally of two types– high volume or high frequency.
The second category are the low price, high complexity products. Operating systems. Masseuse services. Mobile apps. Bicycles. Graphing calculators. Hedge trimmers. Buyers of these products need some guidance, but also want the information they require to be readily at hand. They value consumer feedback and customer reviews very highly in their purchasing decisions. They expect to be able to understand how to use these products almost immediately, and any instructions need to be as close to self-explanatory as possible. The selling strategy for these kinds of products needs to take the form of guidance. Marketing is at its best when it tells a narrative of some kind– demonstrating features and value rather than explaining them. Salespeople for these types of products must have the wherewithal to know when to interject some advice and when to get out of the way. Good, better, best is often a good product presentation strategy. Transactions are generally more focused or intentional– less frequent and less volume per transaction, but usually at a slightly higher price each.
The third category has relatively high price, low complexity products. Cars and trucks. Smartphones. Tailored suits. Airplane rides. Laptop computers. Live event tickets. Buyers of these products need to see value, and a lot of it. Generally the purchasing decision involves more planning and thought than the previous categories. Buyers will have complex value questions, and need someone to provide intelligent answers. Selling strategy should be very much value based– not necessarily focusing heavily on price, but providing a buying experience that overflows with benefits. Marketing should focus on these benefits– and while feature comparisons should be available, they should not be the primary focus. Salespeople for these kinds of products should be able to offer free trials and have price flexibility to close more deals. Cross selling and services tied to products of this kind are appropriate. Skills like handling objections and addressing complaints are much more important to successful growth. Transactions are much less frequent than the previous two categories, but also much higher in price.
Finally the fourth category– high price, high complexity. Technology consulting. Engineering services. Municipal infrastructure. Real estate. Government/Military contracting. Buyers of these kinds of products often have a significant knowledge problem. They have an idea of what they want, but don’t know the process to get where they want to be, or the implications of decisions they make along the way. Inherent product value is obviously important, but not as important as the value of the expertise offered in the selling process. Selling strategy should focus on giving the buyer peace of mind at each stage in the buying journey. Significant, often lifesaving trust is being placed in the seller, and the selling process should offer whatever is necessary to put the buyer at ease. Marketing should focus on the value of the process AND the success of the end result. Salespeople need the skills to articulate concepts that will likely challenge the preconceptions the seller has. There is a fine line to be walked here– establishing trust first and following immediately with well-reasoned, timely advice. There are likely to be many instances of stress and many pain points to be alleviated ahead of a purchasing decision. Transactions are very infrequent, and at higher cost than any previous categories.
Align your selling strategy with the category your product falls under– even if your competition does not. Deviating too far in any direction can be detrimental to success– a cheeseburger marketed and sold like a laptop is more likely to confuse and irritate buyers than to successfully demonstrate value. A bridge marketed and sold like a used car will fail in like manner. This also applies to pricing and product development. If you have sales and marketing talent based around the skills required to sell water bottles in great numbers– releasing a product that is significantly more complex or sold at a much higher price will fail without new talent and tactics.