Research has proven that customers make five major buying decisions in the course of any major purchase. These decisions are always made in the same order. The first is whether to “buy” the salesperson—you. The second is whether to “buy” your company. Only after those two decisions are made will the customer seriously consider whether to buy your products.

This means that you need to sell yourself to the customer—by building rapport while conducting a good needs assessment—before you begin to sell your company and its capabilities. Not coincidentally, that needs assessment also will allow you to sell your company far more successfully. Why? Because until you understand your customer’s needs, you can’t answer the customer’s most important question about your company.

You must understand the customer’s needs before you can effectively sell your company.

In deciding whether to do business with you, customers have three basic questions about your company:

  • What does it do?
  • What is it known for?
  • Is your company a good match for mine?

The first two questions usually can be answered with a rehearsed presentation that explains what your company does and the benefits that other clients have gained from doing business with you.

The third question is most important, however, and you cannot answer it with a generic presentation that relies on standard information. To persuade customers that your company is a good match for theirs, you must tailor your answer to their specific needs.

The best way to do this is to tie your company presentation directly to needs that you uncovered earlier in the sales call. You thus are able to present your company’s capabilities as solutions to the customer’s key problems and opportunities. For instance:

“You told me earlier that service from your current supplier is taking more than 24 hours and that this causes you problems meeting your production goals. We would be a good match for you because our service response averages less than four hours. With our company handling your service you will find it far easier to achieve your goals.”

“Are we a good match” is every customer’s most important question about your company. You cannot answer it before you have uncovered, understood, and agreed upon the customer’s needs. “Sell yourself” first by demonstrating that you care about those needs. You’ll be amazed at how much more effectively you can then sell your company.

Action Selling In Action

If you are in a commodity business, competing with rivals who sell on price alone, it is especially vital to tell your customers a powerful “company story” that explains why they should do business with you. For National Camera Exchange, which competes in the commodity-oriented business of photographic equipment, differentiating itself from the myriad of price-only suppliers is a daily challenge.

National Camera’s added-value proposition lies in the expertise and consulting skills of its sales force. Its equation for success or failure is simple: If the story of that consulting capability isn’t told effectively, the company loses to lower-priced competitors. Sales and training manager Sean Morgan says that an Action Selling training program made a world of difference. “Since more of our salespeople are telling our company story, we are posting higher numbers, and they look less like a roller coaster,” Morgan said. “When the customer needs an education on camera equipment, it is critical to sales success to show them how National Camera is a good match for their needs.”