A client coaching session on Skype last night threw up some very interesting and fundamental questions. The client, who runs a career coaching service, has a real depth and breadth of knowledge. Harnessed with the passion she has (and I mean serious passion) she produces some amazing results with her clients. She’d admit to still being a novice when it comes to marketing and promotion, hence the reason for our coaching sessions. Last night’s session was very different though. The end result was a culmination of some vital concepts that she’s now ready to adopt and apply in her marketing.
I’ve spent many an hour talking and writing about the need for every business to create a ‘compelling proposition’. This is one of the most important things I’ve learned in marketing over the past fifteen years. I’ve met so many business people who have immense knowledge of their subject, have a real ability to deliver the goods but the most crucial element in their marketing strategy is still missing – a killer product offering.
It’s been said many times that selling a service is significantly harder than selling a product. This should be obvious. Allow me to digress for a moment to give you a powerful example…
I’ve just helped a client open a new retail space, a Coffee Shop. He’s an award-winning Barista Maestro and what this guy doesn’t know about serving great coffee really doesn’t count. In the past six years of his career he’s helped a major national chain make hundreds of thousands of pounds in profit. He’s highly successful and now has a very bright future ahead in his own business.
This is because he has a fundamental grasp on the three main aspects of his business; 1) knowing his subject, 2) knowing his business and 3) knowing what customers really want. Let me expand on this for a moment:
Knowing your subject – if you want to position yourself in the top end of your market, and if you want to sell a premium product offering (and why wouldn’t you?) you really need to know what you’re talking about. The best way to approach this, as I’ve found, is accept that you will always be studying and learning about your subject. If you think it’s time to stop reading, listening and learning then you’re going to watch your competitors pass you and pull ahead. You’ll simply perish.
Knowing your business – again, I’ve said it many times before, too many ‘business people’ just don’t understand that you need a cast iron grip on the day-to-day management of your business and that all starts with the core figures. Our Coffee Shop owner is fanatical about margins and labour costs. Even if you only ever focused on these two elements you will immediately surpass about 95% of the business community out there. (And remember labour costs include YOUR time too!)
Knowing what customers want – I know this is probably stating the obvious but when was the last time that you really, openly asked a customer how you could improve the offering you give? Or, what process do you have for measuring the satisfaction of your customers on a daily basis? For the Coffee Shop owner it’s really simple; fresh food, a top quality coffee and made well (he’s even had his own roast blended to his exact recipe!), an immaculate and clean store and, most important of all… a smile for every customer!
Returning to my original point, about the Career Coach – we agreed last night that her knowledge was significant and her delivery produces tangible results. The one ingredient missing to-date is a clear and concise proposition. You see, if you want to take your prospective customer to the point where they are ready to buy you need to ask them a very direct question – every good sales person knows that ‘asking for the business’ is crucial. And yet you can only do this effectively is the consumer knows what they are being asked to buy and why they should go ahead.
Take five minutes and step back from your business. Ask yourself this very direct question; ‘if I were a prospect, would I recognise a clear sales proposition? Would I be totally clear about what this company or individual is asking me to buy?’ – ‘could I confidently give a Yes or No answer?’
Then you might want to go a step further and ask yourself these questions – known as the Key Buying Criteria (here are just four of the seven):
- What actually is it? [the service or product]
- Why do I need it? [again, the service or product]
- What will it do for me – how will I benefit?
- Why should I buy it from this company and not somewhere else?
Trust me, this is concept is responsible for creating quantum shifts in results from marketing and promotions – I know, I’ve proved this with hundreds of clients for over a decade. If you want to get a better result you might just need to take a different approach and being clear about your offering and proposition, or Essential Sales Argument, as it’s sometimes called, this is the best place to start.