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something on the first call. Don't condemn yourself to mediocrity by not planning ahead of time, like my
friend Betty.

Countless sales managers, myself included, have been guilty of misguiding the activities of newly hired
salespeople. They seem to forget or don't appreciate why the salesperson was hired. Their instructions
to the new salesperson are, "Take the next few months to simply introduce yourself to your customers
and don't be bothering them by trying to sell something. They will buy once they get to know you
better." How ridiculous. What a gross violation of the company's time and money, not to mention a big
injustice to the customer. Customers get irritated by calls that don't have any clear direction or provide
an understanding of what comes next. Customers are often left wondering why on earth they granted an
appointment. "I thought she was going to sell me something or at least show me a new product line."

Tim Commandment #3
Have clearly defined primary and secondary agenda for every sales call.
Ask: What am I going to sell?

If you cannot make the sale, at least sell the next step. Always leave the customer's office with an
agreement, a commitment for the next step. It can include a breakfast meeting, a plant tour, a call with
the VP of manufacturing, a demonstration of your product, and so on. We can't afford to chew up
valuable selling hours by making unnecessary return calls or return visits. Remember, studies concur
that planning and preparation will reduce your sales cycle and increase productivity by a minimum of
20%. You are running a business, ME Inc. Don't work hard, sell smart.
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Time to Show Off
The moment of truth. After weeks of telephone tag, voicemail, and time spent planning, you are finally
face-to-face with your customer. You have precious little time to deal with the initial tension and create
a positive first impression. Psychological studies concur that the best approach to build rapport and
trust is to get your customers talking about themselves or their business. It's even more effective if you
initiate the dialogue using information pertinent to their business. This is where you can stimulate the
conversation by showing off your new-found intelligence. You have worked hard to obtain precall
information about your potential customer. Don't hide it. Don't be shy or hesitant to show off. You want
to be subtle yet professional. The following examples are effective openers when presented using an,
"Oh, by the way" approach.
 Congratulations on the company's 10th anniversary.
 Congratulations on his or her recent promotion.
 How is your new office in Cleveland working out?
 I see you recently introduced a new product line.
 I saw your new advertisement. It looks great!
 Are you still hiring?

Tie in any knowledge you have. Be forthcoming. Your knowledge and enthusiasm communicates to the
customer that he or she is important and worth the time you invested in planning.
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Features and Benefits: No Advantages
The terms "feature" and "benefit" are commonly used within the sales profession but, unfortunately,
they are often misused. Sales professionals frequently interchange these terms, not clear on their
meaning. Feature/benefit selling represents one of the cornerstones of professional selling. It has been
an effective strategy for centuries and I don't expect it to change, not in our lifetime. It's part of the
common currency of every sales call.

To be an effective sales entrepreneur, you must relate your product to the prospect's unique situation.
You do this by translating your features into benefits that satisfy the customer's needs. It begins with an
understanding of both features and benefits.
A feature is defined as a quality or characteristic of your product or service: what it has. Simple. As part
of our planning we need to recognize and appreciate the four feature categories. They are the features of:
 your industry
 your company
 your product or service
 you
Each category, of course, offers a host of features. There can be 100 features just about your company,
100 features about your industry, and so on. These features combined become your corporate menu.
It's a menu of all your offerings, including you (which happens to be the most overlooked feature
category). When was the last time you said to a prospect, "And another reason you should buy from us
is because I'm your salesperson." Don't sell yourself short. Make a list of all your features. If you are
uncomfortable with this exercise, go back to Chapter 2, Attitude #3.
A benefit is defined as what the feature does for the customer. It is how a particular feature will help a
customer and is tied directly to buying motives. At the end of the day it addresses, "Here's how I can
help your business." Also, benefits must answer the proverbial question "What's in it for me?"

You may be familiar with the FAB approach of selling: features, advantages, and benefits. I have
eliminated advantages. Not required. As it is, sales professionals have a tough time separating features
and benefits. Let's not complicate it with an unnecessary step. Few salespeople can clearly distinguish
between advantages and benefits. That being the case, how would you expect your customers to
appreciate the difference? Both of you end up confused. My approach is simple. Customers buy only
benefits, not advantages or features. For example, when you buy a car the feature (your hot-button) is
power windows but the benefits are ease of operation, convenience, and control.
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Avoid the Feature Dump
One of my favorite topics is the good old feature dump. Almost all salespeople (including sales
entrepreneurs) are guilty of it. The feature dump is talking about what the product is, how it works, and
how it compares with the competition, but not what it will do for the customer. Salespeople jump into a
monologue, talking ad nauseam about all the features, often boring the customer to tears. Believe it or
not, customers simply don't care about most of that stuff. The conversation with your potential
customers often lacks the critical connection between your product, service, or company and their
needs. Customers need to know how you can help improve their efficiencies or their margins, or help
them become more competitive. More often than not salespeople are selling what they need to sell,
instead of selling what their customers need to buy.
Typically, sales professionals show up to the call and after asking only a couple of probes begin
spewing all their knowledge, telling not selling. They engage in a verbal avalanche of information,
statistics, specifications, and whatever else they can think of to impress the customer. After all,
salespeople are supposed to be good talkers, right? Wrong. The underlying problem is the vast amount
of product knowledge that salespeople are exposed to. Companies inundate their salespeople with
product knowledge, company policies, price lists, catalogs, brochures, flavor-of-the-month promotions,
new product launches, and so on. It's no wonder salespeople show up and can't wait to tell the
customer about all the features. It's what they have been trained to talk about, to regurgitate all the
information in the brochure. In fact, a brochure is nothing more than a glossy feature dump, just as a
corporate video distributed by head office is a high-tech feature dump. A brochure or video can't possibly
reflect benefits, as they are very subjective. It is the customers' right to identify the benefits that are
important to them. Customers decide the benefits, not the salespeople.
More often than not, salespeople respond far too quickly when asked for a brochure. They willingly send
out or hand out their corporate brochures, creating a false sense of productivity. Tell your potential
customer that you are better than a brochure, and a 15-minute appointment is necessary to explore the
possibility of doing business.

On the lighter side, rather than spend the day handing out or mailing brochures with a business card
("Just leave us your card and a brochure") you'd be better off to rent an airplane, fly over your territory,
and shovel out 1,000 brochures. It would certainly get more attention! My point is this: Doing an
in-person brochure-drop does little to drive your business. Brochures should be used as a leave-behind
to augment the sale”not used as a lead-in. However, they can be an effective mailer if you highlight
relevant features and follow up with a telephone call to make an appointment after they have received it.
This approach will sometimes impress the customer enough to grant you an appointment.
What drives the feature dump is our natural tendency to be helpful. We are often seduced by a false
sense of helpfulness created by telling the customer all about our features. Sales representatives love to
dispense information. As one customer said, salespeople tend to "show-up and throw-up." This
situation reminds me of those PEZ candy dispensers we had as kids: pull the head back and all this
information comes spewing out. We often get overzealous in our desire to enhance our customer's
welfare. It's nothing short of blah-blah-blah selling, inundating the customer with useless information. I
consider PEZ to be an acronym for "Please Excuse my Zealousness." Go out and get yourself a PEZ
dispenser and put it on your desk as a visual reminder to banish the feature dump. We must appreciate
that our call-effectiveness is measured in terms of the customer's perspective, not ours.
The redundancy of a feature dump is further supported by this statistic: Your customer will decide to
buy from you based on less than 5% of your total features. That's it! If you ask your customers why
they bought from you, their answer reveals no more than two to three reasons (benefits). Imagine the
poor customer having to endure a feature dump that is 95% useless information to them. I compare it to
the menu analogy. When you visit a restaurant, you are presented with a menu. The menu is nothing
more than a list of available features. You, as the customer, decide what features will become benefits.
As you are handed your menu, your server might as well say, "Here is our list of features. I'll be back in
a few minutes to take your list of benefits." After reviewing the menu, which can easily include 100 or
more features, you place your order of only four to five benefits. There's your 5%. The rest of the items
remain as features. The only person who can decide on the benefits is your customer. Your customer is
the ultimate authority to either accept or reject your features as benefits. There lies the challenge:
Identify the features on your corporate menu that will benefit your customer.

Feature Dumpers Syndrome is an undetected virus that has plagued salespeople for centuries. It
sabotages more sales calls than any other sales virus.
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The common feature dump virus quietly goes about its business disguising itself as a routine,
predictable component of a typical sales call. If you don't think you are a feature dumper, just ask your

Unfortunately there are no pills, antibiotics, or prescriptions available to cure this unproductive approach
to selling. But don't fret, help is here at last. The cure lies in your willingness and commitment to
embrace a sales entrepreneurial code of conduct. It's time to do more selling, and less telling; features
tell, benefits sell.

The feature dump is not something we can totally eliminate. From time to time you will find yourself
engaged in an elaborate monologue spewing out so-what information. If you find yourself in this
situation, the best thing to do is finish your thought, pause for a moment and say, "Well that's enough
about me, how about telling me more about you." Invite the customer to talk about his or her business
by asking conversational probes. Resist the temptation to revert back to a feature dump. Take notes
and truly listen to what your customer is telling you.
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Two Types of Information
One of the deadliest traps of a sales call is predictability: the mark of a boring order-taker selling on
price versus value. Customers have been conditioned over the years to anticipate a boring, predictable
sales call”the kind where a representative shows up and dispenses a well-rehearsed pitch. Sometimes
customers themselves open the call by saying, "Okay, let's hear your pitch," or "Tell me about your
company." In fact, customers often communicate their displeasure with the these routine sales calls by
not granting second appointments. The first appointment must be worthwhile or you can forget about a
second appointment. Some customers go as far as to say, "Okay, come in but you've only got 15
minutes." That is simply a way to shield themselves from another lengthy feature dump.

What should you do if your customer looks at his watch and says that you've only got five minutes?
Believe me, it happens. Sadly enough, the majority of salespeople take that as an invitation to recite the
Cliff's Notes version of their pitch. If you answered, "I'd tell him all about our company and what we do,"
you may want to reconsider your approach. Avoid the overwhelming temptation to feature dump. During
the first few seconds acknowledge the limited time frame and suggest you'll be finished in four and a
half minutes. Then give the customer a 45-second infomercial as to who you are and what you do,
highlighting the distinctive benefits that may be of interest. Then ask permission to ask a few questions
to learn more about their business to explore if there is a possible fit. During your probing, the customer
will clearly see your sincerity and obvious interest. Take the last 30 seconds to acknowledge your time
is up and reschedule another appointment. I suggest that the vast majority of the time the customer will
be impressed with your obvious interest and extend the appointment by saying, "It's okay, please
continue." Remember, if customers feel you may be able to help their business or alleviate an existing
inconvenience, they are interested. Your five-minute appointment will often turn into a one-hour

During the sales call it is the type of information being dispensed by the salesperson that labels the call
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as routine and boring, or interesting and worthwhile for the customer. There are two types of information.
First, there is what I call so-what information, usually associated with sales representatives. It's the
classic feature dump where the representative is working through a well-rehearsed, enthusiastic pitch
about all the features but generating a so-what reaction from the customer. Even the sales
representative gets bored with it.
The second type of information is, "Here's how I can help your business," usually associated with a
sales entrepreneur. Surprisingly, this approach is a refreshing change for your customer. It breaks the
typical mold of a sales call and brings something new to the table, a genuine interest in the customer.
Of course this type of information just doesn't happen. It's the result of effective planning, preparation,
and smart probing. Once you have identified relevant features (via probing), bridge them to the
corresponding benefits. We have more on bridging and probing in Chapter 7.
I offer a statistic that should surprise you. Your competitor can offer approximately 90% of the same
features you can. I call it the duplication factor. Why do you think they are called competitors? Because
they duplicate many of the same things you do, maybe even better. To compete, they mirror several of
the same features you offer. The key is to differentiate yourself, emphasizing that the business
advantage your company can offer is you. Your competitors don't have you. Anyone can copy and
improve a product or service, match a competitor's features, copy their sales promotions, or undercut
prices, but they can't copy or duplicate you. Apply your own unique style, your own signature, to your
Sequential Model. Remember, customers are looking to buy relationships (peace of mind), not just

I don't mean to suggest that product knowledge is not important. Of course it is. I agree that you must
know what you are talking about in terms of specifications, technical applications, manufacturing
specifications, industry standards, and your competitors' offerings. Learn as much about your
competitors as you can. Make it part of your planning. However, although this information is important,
it won't close a sale for you. Remember, only 20% of the decision to buy from you is based on your
product knowledge.
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Account Classification: Three Types
Managing your account base is often a question of maintaining existing customers and finding new
customers who are most likely to buy, then engaging your resources to maximize the opportunity.
However, some accounts are more profitable than others and let's face it, profit drives your business.
You must maximize your returns by satisfying the greatest number of profitable customers. Return can
be measured in a number of ways: ROI (return on investment)”the amount of money and time spent on
an account; ROE (return on energy)”energy expended to secure the account; ROO (return on
occasion)”leads or referrals you get while golfing or participating at an occasion outside normal selling
activities or selling hours. ROO extends your limited selling hours and ROT (return on your time equity)
”asks how wisely are you spending your allotted time.

Not all customers have the same buying potential. The portion of unprofitable accounts is usually
greater than you think. I remind you of the 80/20 rule: 80% of your sales come from only 20% of your
customers. Therefore, sales entrepreneurs need to classify customers on the basis of their sales
potential, to avoid spending too much time with low-potential accounts. Remember, there are only 1,760
selling hours in one entire year. We can't afford to be busy servicing unproductive, unprofitable
accounts. Don't be fooled by revenue numbers. Revenue alone doesn't keep a business afloat, profits
do. Pricing your product or service at or below cost is not smart business, but many sales
representatives are seduced into a quick sale where profit is sacrificed for revenue. Your business must
be managed by utilizing all of the resources at your disposal, maximizing your return in the most
productive manner. To that end I offer a very simple account classification strategy: the ABC analysis.
It's not new but it certainly works. Use this method to evaluate and classify each of your existing and
potential accounts.
A Accounts

Your A accounts deserve the most attention. Here's why:
 They have high potential return: (ROI/ROE/ROO/ROT)
 They require minimum invested time
 They are low maintenance
 They are cooperative if problems arise
 They have a high contribution based on margins/profit


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