Do you remember the “connect the dot” puzzles?  Sure you do! They were fun, but most of the time you could tell what the outcome was going to be before you even started drawing the lines. Anyway, while facilitating a recent workshop, it dawned on me that sales people should be better at connecting the dots. That’s right, they need to be better at connecting dots, and that’s something they need to remedy.

As an example, I’ve found when you ask most any sales rep, they’ll tell you they know that focusing on the retailer, their issues/opportunities, and how we help them achieve their goals, is much more effective than pitching their products. Reps know this, … they understand this, … it makes perfect sense. So if this is the case, …

… why do so many organizations fail to do it? Why do we still see so many sales presentations focusing on, “the product, how it was made, how it’s packaged and the featuring deal?”

In truth, these type of presentations are actually saying, “It’s really about ME, MY product, and achieving MY goals.” So why does this happen? Why, in these one-on-one conversations do reps readily admit they understand the need to make it about their retailer, yet in actuality when they sit down across from the their retailer, it so often goes the other way?

Well first, most manufacturing companies, from the top executives on down focus on what THEY do, … what products THEY’RE developing, … what growth plans THEY have, … what results THEY’RE producing, … what THEY need to do to beat THEIR competition, … and the list goes on and on. In reality, from the board level on down, almost every conversation in the company, and this is natural, focuses on what they need to do to or with their retailers/customers, and not on what are they doing for their retailers/customers. Because of this, it’s easy to see how the retail/customer can actually become abstract and very distant.

Second, I think it’s easy to see how these companies can become confused as to who their customer actually is. For most CPG companies, the customer may actually be the end user, … the consumer. In these situations the retailer is really just a means to help them reach their “customer.” So even if they do spend time in their companies talking about their “customers,” they’re referring to their end users the consumer, while the retailer even gets left further and further behind.

And third, most sales people I see actually have a difficult time realizing the difference between being product-focused and customer-focused. Now, I know this sounds like a simple distinction, but it’s not, and I’ve experienced this over and over again in our workshops.

Here’s what I mean. Most all sales presentations used to be product-oriented sales presentations. A sales rep would sit down, across the table from a retailer, and start spouting all of the virtues of a specific product. The retailers job was to listen to this product-focused dialogue and try to determine ‘if’ and ‘how’ they could use that product to help them get more sales, … or get more customers, … or increase their profit, … etc. That was the buying/selling process.

Then the Solution-Selling concept appeared. Now, instead of being product-focused, sales people had to be much more retailer-focused. In other words, sales reps had to learn to demonstrate to the retailer how the benefits of their specific products could help the retailer solve some of their problems, or help them reach some of their objectives. Sales reps needed to be much more consultive, problem-solvers and not just product-pushers. Obviously, this is a much more difficult task for sales reps because it’s based on what the retailer needs, instead of what product the rep has to sell.

So, that brings us to today, and although everyone in a manufacturing company readily admits their sales people need to be more retailer-focused problem solvers, the truth is …

• … almost every conversation in the company still deals with the product and not the retailer

• … if a conversation is not product-oriented, then it deals with the end customer, the consumer

• … since most sales people are still product-focused, retailers themselves still have to try and determine what kind of benefits they can get from each product or proposal that’s presented.

• … oh, … and just because a retailer listens to you, doesn’t mean you’re delivering a customer-oriented presentation. Man, if you only knew how many product-oriented presentations the average retailer hears each month.

Therefore, here’s the message …

… retailer’s don’t buy products, they buy what they think they’ll get or the benefits they’ll achieve because of those products.

So, as a sales rep, shouldn’t you be talking about the benefits your retailer will get (the retailer’s benefits, not yours), if they purchase your product or agree to your proposal? Why would you leave it for your retailer to determine? Do you trust your retailer to see all of the benefits you and your product provides? If you do, then you really shouldn’t be in this business.

Your job, … that’s right, your job, … is to demonstrate to the retailer how your product or proposal will help him! PERIOD! To do that, you must connect the dots from your specific product to the benefits your retailer will achieve.

That’s your job, … to connect the dots, … make it a story. Explain to your retailer how great things will be, all of the benefits they’ll get by agreeing to your proposal. Truthfully though, most sales reps don’t do this, they get caught up in what’s going on with their own company and forget they need to be dot connectors for their retailers.

Don’t let that happen to you, … be the best dot connector you can be!