Act 6 Sell the Product

Death to the data dump.

The flight attendant served Joe an oriental chicken salad. Matt passed on the snack offered in first-class, since he would be home for dinner for a change.

“I’ve sold myself, and I’ve sold my company,” Matt said. “Iverson ought to be ready to consider his third buying decision. So now I open Act 6 and sell my product, right?”

He paused. Might as well bring this up before Joe does, he thought. “You saw my product presentation this morning when I delivered it to Bob Howell. I’ll bet Action Selling is going to tell me to do things a little differently.”

“You’d win that bet,” Joe said. “Matt, you obviously learned to sell the same way I was taught when I started out. We had a ‘pitch book.’ You use a PowerPoint presentation on your laptop, but it’s the same bad idea: ‘Indulge me, Mr. Prospect, while I walk you through these 6,000 screens of bulleted points that tell you everything you never wanted to know about my company and the 8 billion things we sell.’ You did notice Howell’s eyes starting to glaze over, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I noticed,” Matt said sheepishly. “To tell you the truth, if you hadn’t been there, I’d have cut it off sooner than I did. For a long time I’ve felt there’s something fundamentally wrong with that whole PowerPoint routine. But the marketing people put a lot of work into it, and we’ve been told to use it. You were my new boss, straight from corporate headquarters…”

“I know what you’re saying,” Joe interrupted. “That policy changes, of course, starting now. But there’s another reason why you keep droning on with your product pitch until the customer wishes you’d go away and leave him alone, isn’t there? You’ve never known what to do instead.”

“Sad but true,” Matt admitted.

“It drives me nuts,” Joe said. “Salespeople are trained to think that two-thirds of their selling takes place in Act 6, when they describe their product features and benefits. That leads to a classic data dump like the one you dumped on Bob Howell. I call it ‘show up and throw up.’ You shotgun the poor guy with product information until his ears bleed, blabbing away in the hope that eventually something you say will strike a chord. Like I told you before, in Action Selling two-thirds of the selling you do occurs in Act 3, when you Ask the Best Questions and Back-Track Benefits to uncover high-yield needs—and when you listen a lot more than you talk.”

Salespeople are trained to think that two-thirds of their selling takes place in Act 6. In Action Selling, two-thirds of the selling occurs in Act 3.

“But now, when I present my product features and benefits in Act 6, I can use a target rifle instead of a shotgun,” Matt said, picking up the thread. “Instead of boring the customer with a data dump, I aim at the needs we’ve already agreed on and explain how particular features and benefits will best serve those needs. That should be pretty easy to do, since I uncovered the needs in the first place by Back-Tracking Benefits derived from my own product features.”

“That’s the idea,” Joe said casually.

“That’s a great idea,” Matt protested, as if Joe failed to appreciate Action Selling sufficiently.

I believe this is what you call ‘taking ownership,’ Joe thought with a hint of a smile.

“Tell me how Act 6 works,” Matt said.

“How do you sell a solution instead of just a product?” Joe began. “You demonstrate the tie between the needs you agreed upon in Act 4 and the results the customer will achieve with your product. To do that, Action Selling recommends a straightforward process called TFBR.”

Joe drew a simple figure to illustrate.

“The TFBR process goes quickly, and you repeat it for each need the client agreed to in Act 4,” Joe said. “Save the need you think will be most important for last, so you can end on a high note.”

He explained TFBR like this:

First, Tie-back the conversation to a need agreed upon earlier. Remind the customer of that need: “You mentioned that you were concerned about X…” “You said your company was trying to do Y…”

Then present the product Feature that relates to the need. This is the feature you were thinking of when you began the Back-Tracking Benefits process that allowed you to uncover the need to begin with.

Explain the Benefit of the feature in terms that correspond to the customer’s need. How will the customer be better off with your solution?

Repeat the TFBR process for each need. Save the most important one for last.

Finally, ask a Reaction question that lets the customer tell you whether you’ve hit the target: How do you see this working in your situation? When would this be most useful? Who in your company might benefit most from this?

“The reaction question is important for at least three reasons,” Joe said. “It confirms that you’re both on the same page about the tie between your product and the customer’s need. It allows the customer to cement in his own mind how your offering is a solution to his problem—instead of just listening to you tell him why it’s a solution. And third, it keeps the customer involved in the product conversation. You’ll do most of the talking in Acts 5 and 6, but you don’t want to do all of it. Reaction questions help prevent this from turning into a monologue, with you speaking and the customer’s mind wandering.”

Matt took several seconds to finish jotting notes. “That’s it?” he asked.

“One more thing,” Joe said. “You’ll have agreed in Act 4 on at least three high-yield needs. I already told you that in Act 6 you should save the most important need for last. But you also should keep a product feature in reserve as extra ammunition. You might need an additional TFBR later, in Act 7, in case you run into a stall when you ask for commitment.”

“I knew it!” Matt exclaimed happily. “Action Selling is going to give me a way to handle stalls and objections that actually makes sense, isn’t it. That will be a first. I love this system!”

Keep a TFBR in reserve in case you hear a stall when you ask for commitment.

“I have strong feelings for it too,” Joe deadpanned. “But first tell me how you’re going to handle Act 6 with Gary Iverson tomorrow. You’ve already identified one ideal high-yield need you think he’ll agree to—a quick and painless way to achieve software integration. What’s your second ideal need? And assuming he agrees to it, how will you work it into a TFBR dialogue?”

Matt gathered his thoughts. “Gary,” he began, looking at Joe, “you said you need a way to solve your problem with this cutthroat competitor that is using the Internet to undercut APS’ prices. At the same time, you want to leverage the strength of your direct sales operations. Our All-In-One system is fully integrated to manage a company’s entire sales and marketing process. It allows you to handle Internet marketing and manage the activity of the direct sales force, turning them into a seamless whole.

“That’s the tie-back and the feature,” Matt said in a stage whisper to Joe.

“What that means,” he continued, “is that Internet marketing efforts support the direct sales force instead of undermining it. You’ll simultaneously cut marketing costs and improve communications with your sales force. How do you see that working in your situation?”

“Yes, that’s how TFBR works,” Joe said. “Iverson reacts to the question. You repeat the process with at least two more needs and the features that correspond to them, saving the most important for last. And you keep a product feature in reserve in case you need another TFBR later.”

Joe finished his salad. “So,” he said, swallowing his last bite, “how do you suppose Act 6 ends?”

“I ask for his business?” Matt guessed.

“Nope,” Joe said. “You end Act 6 with a question – a close-ended one. You ask the customer, ‘Do you have any questions?’

“Considering what we know about the order of the customer’s five buying decisions,” Joe continued, “what question is the customer most likely to ask at this point? What is Iverson probably going to say?”

Matt looked at the Action Selling Process card Joe had given him. “How much is it?” he replied. “Iverson will ask about the price.”

“Bingo,” Jow said. He drew another little diagram.

“If the customer asks about the price at this point, you should be delighted,” Joe said. “It means you and he are exactly in sync with regard to his buying decisions. You can move straight to Act 7, where you’ll quote a price and ask for commitment.”

“And if he doesn’t ask about the price?” Matt said.

“Sometimes when you ask, ‘Do you have any questions?’ a customer says no,” Joe said. “In that case, you just say, ‘I’ll bet you’re wondering what your investment might be?’ Sure enough, the customer will admit that’s what he was wondering about. Which, again, moves you to Act 7. And by the way, Action Selling recommends that you always use the word ‘investment,’ not ‘cost.’ Investment sounds more positive.”

“Okay,” Matt said, “but what if Iverson asks a question that isn’t about price? What if he raises a new point about the product or our service?”

“If that happens, remember what you learned in Act 3,” Joe said. “Answer his question with a question. Find out what’s behind this new concern. Don’t get bushwhacked by responding too soon to a simple-sounding question with a deal-killing worry behind it. Fall back on your listening skills. Maybe there’s a new high-yield need for you to uncover.”

“I just jump back to Act 3,” Matt nodded.

“As often as necessary,” Joe said. “And after you deal with each question that isn’t about price, you ask, ‘Do you have any other questions?’ When you hit the one about what the customer’s investment will be, Act 6 is over.”

“Meaning the time has come to achieve my Commitment Objective and make this sale?”

“You figure you’re ready?” Joe asked.

“Let’s do it.”