In order to sell a product or service, three conditions need to be met in the person or company that will buy from you. Without them, a sale is impossible.
- They must understand that they have a problem.
- They must know that you offer a solution.
- They must be convinced that your solution is the right one.
Let’s take a look at each of these components, and talk about how to address each one.
They Have a Problem
The first step for taking any sort of action is recognizing that there is a problem. The problem will be one of two things. Either this is a new problem for the prospect, or the current solutions are unsatisfactory. Whichever one it is, the first step in marketing is to convince prospects of the reality of the problem.
Let’s look at a couple of examples from the consumer (B2C) world. Although teeth whitening has been available from dentists for some time, it’s only this century that products were developed for home use. People didn’t have a need for super white teeth, so companies had to convince people that white teeth are essential to looking good and all that comes with that. Suddenly, dingy teeth are a problem and teeth whitener is a must-have.
On the other hand, we know we need a place to stay when we travel. AirBnB needed to convince consumers that the tradition solutions weren’t meeting all their needs.
Although making prospects aware of a problem is the first condition required, you must decide if that should be the first step for your company. If, like AirBnB, you have a new solution, then, yes, it needs to be. If, however, you offer a solution that’s already well known, you may want to concentrate on making prospect aware of what you offer, and why it’s right for them.
As an example, consider a chiropractor seeking to expand his practice. He can elect to market to people who already believe in the value of chiropractic care, or he can target people with various health conditions and try to convince them to try chiropractic treatment.
Starting at this level takes the most amount of work, as you’ll still have to address the other two conditions. Marketing needs to convince people that there is a problem, and one solution (the one you provide) is a good answer. Though the solution is mentioned, it’s not the focus at this stage (nor is your company).
In the B2B world, white papers that examine a problem are a common way to make prospects aware of their need. Other ways of communicating information—articles, blog posts, forums, social media, e-mail—can also serve this purpose.
You Have a Solution
The second condition that people need is to know that your company offers a solution to their problem.
This is the original marketing–hanging up your shingle. Centuries ago, that was all that was needed. People knew they required someone who made furniture or sold pots, and they just needed to know where to get what they wanted. Your competition could be just down the street, or many towns away.
These days, this is the hardest part. Getting your name out there when there may be thousands of others competing with you—every one trying to be heard—is supremely difficult. You need to narrow your focus and target your marketing very specifically to be successful.
If yours is a large company with many divisions, be sure that your existing customers know all that you have to offer. Customers prefer doing business with a company they already have a relationship with. They may be looking for a solution in a particular area, and if they aren’t aware that you offer that type of product or service, you will miss out on a great opportunity. Take time periodically to remind your customers of all the things you do.
Your Solution is Right for Them
We’ve all heard of the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). This is what makes your company distinct from the hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands, that offer similar products or services. There is something about you that distinguishes you from everyone else who wants a relationship with that particular prospect.
You must find a way to connect with your prospect based on that distinction.
Sometimes, the distinction is the product or service. If a person wants an iPhone, for example, they won’t be content with another product even if it does all the same things, perhaps even doing them better, or costing less.
Or your company may have a approach that differs from your competitors’. If the prospect is convinced that your answer is superior, they will choose you.
Sometimes, your company itself makes the difference. B2B customers actually have a closer connection to their vendors than B2C consumers do. Be sure to build a reputation as a quality, trustworthy company.
Whether you are competing on brand, product, price, prestige, quality, approach, or any other factor, those things that make you distinct are what you need to convey in your marketing. And when you connect with your prospect—when the company is convinced that what you offer is just the thing they need—that is when you see the results of your marketing.
Decide, first, if you need to (or want to) convince your prospects that there is a problem. (If you offer something new, you’ll have to start here.) If you market at this point, use methods that convey information and raise awareness.
When you are ready, select very specific targets, and direct your marketing to make them aware of you and what you offer.
Then, for those who are interested, demonstrate why your product or service is the right one for them. Focus on your USP.
Once your prospect knows there is a problem, knows you have a solution, and believes your solution is right, you’ll be ready to have a customer.