As noted in earlier chapters, traditional sellers tend to lead with product—that is, to push hard on what they perceive to be the distinguishing characteristics of their offering. But this approach is fraught with peril. It often fails, for example, to establish a salesperson’s competence. It short-circuits meaningful discussion of the buyer’s needs. It may lead to premature price discussions, causing sticker shock, and ultimately result in no sale. Many traditional salespeople fail to realize that only those differentiators that the buyers agree they want or need are applicable.
Part of the problem is the seller’s familiarity with the offering—most often thought of as a great asset. Think about how traditional salespeople learn about their products. In many cases, newly hired salespeople are sent off to what their employers call product training during their very first week on the job. In many organizations, this instruction is referred to as sales training, but it should not be, in our estimation. This training is frequently conducted by the Product Marketing department.
More and more companies are building infrastructures in Product Marketing. In many cases, these efforts lead to what might be called a Pinocchio effect: The product begins to take on a life of its own, aside from any customer-related considerations. The apparent mission of Product Marketing is to talk about what “it” will do—“it” being the product. It will lower your inventory costs, it will build your market share, it will improve your profitability, it will reduce your employee turnover . . . (feel free to fill in any unsubstantiated claims your Pinocchio can accomplish).
This is backward. At the end of a call made by a customer-focused seller, the buyers shouldn’t be focusing on what it can do for them; they should be focusing on what they can do with it. The conclusion is inescapable: The focus of both salespeople and buyers should be on product usage, not product features.
In this case, we’ll use the specific term product marketing, rather than the broader marketing.