One of the things that bothers me the most in pitches is reps that are not customer focussed. If I wanted to get a rote explanation of each feature of your tool, I’d read the website! Recently though, I had an excellent pitch and follow up process from an AE at Crunchbase, which reminded me of how a great customer focus can make a vendor process not only significantly more effective, but also much more pleasant! It also reminded me of a couple great customer focus exercises that I learned back in my days of slinging bikes at 99 Bikes, back in Australia.
As someone who gets overexcited about the technical details (and it was even worse with bikes – there is so much to geek about!), I found exercises likes these very helpful. After all, people are usually not coming in to buy a bike with a particular carbon part, they just want a bike that is light, so they can go faster, and impress their mates. In the same way, B2B buyers don’t always care that you use the latest TensorFlow and Keras tech to do NLP – they want a chatbot that makes their customers happy, saves their employees time, and makes them look great in front of their boss. These exercises will help your team focus on what the benefits to the customer of your product are, and are great for onboarding new hires, but also periodically for reminding your team to focus back to the customer, and away from individual product features/specs.
1. Circle, Square, Triangle
This is effectively a listening and summary exercise, paired with customer discovery. Have one person role play a client, and have the rep write down the 3 important items for them in deciding on a product or service like yours (more info on some ways of getting this information here). Examples of these could be specific functionalities, business models, budgets, challenges they’re looking to solve, etc. Have the rep doing the exercise ask relevant discovery questions, and then summarize back to the person role playing what their 3 key factors (their circle, square, triangle) were.
Things to watch for:
- Is the rep asking relevant questions, and responding to the answers enough that the role-player doesn’t feel interrogated?
- Is the rep summarizing correctly? Are they using the vocabulary of the “prospective client”? This is key, as generally people recognize subconsciously that they are being listened to in this way (at least, this is what I was taught, and it’s worked well for me).
2. Which Means…?
This is a feature-benefit exercise. Too often, reps fixate on the vocab of their own team, and on their own product, and reel off a rote pitch explaining their product features. This can be boring for the prospective client, means that you are using a lot of their time, and can make the client feel unimportant. This is a particularly important exercise
To practice explaining your product in terms of benefits, have your team practice explaining the benefits of the features of everyday objects toward funny goals. We used to do this with “getting a hot boyfriend/girlfriend”, but you can use whatever works for your team.
This teapot has a nice handle, which means you can pour tea more elegantly, which means you will look sophisticated, which means that you have a better chance of getting a date with that guy/girl you like, which means you have a better change of getting a hot boyfriend/girlfriend.
While you can (and should) also do this with your product, what you’re aiming for is that your team become more flexible and creative in fitting features to customer benefits, and benefits to customer goals. Start with random goals and object/feature combinations, and when the team has had some fun, move to customer personas and use case goals. Better yet, play this after playing circle square triangle to get your team discovering and summarizing better!
Things to watch for:
- Are your team getting to the customer goal? If not, have them try to add more “which means” steps, or repeat the customer discovery process.
- Are they able to think creatively to solve for the customer goal? Is their summary fluid and does it demonstrate a proper understanding of the use case?
- Is the rep making enough steps to clearly show their thinking, and make it easy for the customer to understand the benefit?
I found these exercises really valuable while learning to sell consistently. I hope they prove useful to your team, and if you try them out, let me know how you go. If you have other great exercises, send them my way!