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Many companies think they are selling a product (television, automobile, cellular phone, car parts, etc.). In most cases they are wrong, very wrong. More importantly, if a firm believes they are selling just a product, then the path to commodity status runs steeply downhill to oblivion.

A shift in mindset is needed to provide the maximum value from the products and services your firm offers. Consider these simple examples that can assist in shifting your mindset.

OLD Mindset

  • Televisions are electronics
  • Automobiles are transportation
  • Cell phones are for communication

NEW Mindset

  • Televisions are for entertainment
  • Automobiles are a lifestyle statement
  • Cell phones/Smartphones are for entertainment, communications, enabling commerce, freedom, business productivity

Any customer, current or prospective, will ask, "What value will I get from what you are offering?" You must have an outstanding and honest answer or the sale is most likely lost.

The two questions below, when answered, will supply your sales and marketing teams with the information needed to address this issue. The questions are:

  1. Why should your customer care about your product?
  2. Why should customers choose your product over another?

Why should your customer care about your product?

No one is going to care more about a product than the product manager. She poured a significant portion of her life into conceiving, developing, and launching it and it is normal for the product owner to feel a connection to it and to vigorously defend it at times. Unfortunately, the customers do not care about the products–only what the products can do for them.

Customers need to accomplish a task and will use the product they perceive to be the best for their application. Your sales team does not normally focus on a specific product either. Their job is to produce revenue; typically their mission is not to sell a particular product (yours) but to generate a certain level of revenue for the company.

You mission is to convince prospective customers that you have the ability to fulfill their top three requirements as listed below. If you can do this, then you do know what you are selling.

  • Does it solve their true problem and not just the symptom?
  • Does it do it as economically as other options?
  • Will the company support me?

Why should customers choose your product over another?

Below is a simple example showing how your total offering could be better than others’ solutions. This type of business transaction requires advanced business, marketing, and sales techniques because oftentimes, a simple comparison of specifications shows little differentiation among product choices and drives your business toward the commodity space.

Example: Your product may be the absolute best in its category or it could just as easily be average. Whichever it is, when it is used as part of your firm’s total solution, the system performance perceived by the customer is greater than the sum of the parts of a system built from multiple suppliers. The system's synergy has value that can be quantified with enough thought and synthesis. In addition to performance, a total solution from a single supplier typically has a lower total cost of ownership than a system put together from disparate suppliers.

Conclusion

These topics are the basis of any good value proposition. As long as you are discussing value with the customer and not price, you are making progress toward a commercial relationship based on the benefits the customer will receive. Once the discussion is focused on price, value is no longer relevant and you and your product become perceived as a commodity rather than special.

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