Selling: “Sell the Suit, Don’t Sell the Buttons”

As an extension to the lessons in the previous essay, “Selling: The art of Questions”, I want to take a minute and expound on a very simple idea. It seems that as we prepare ourselves for a “selling moment”, our research and pre-work sometimes produces unintended results and outcomes. As I covered in the last essay, we need to take time and prepare thoughtful and “planful” questions to use in “selling moments” in order to get the customer talking about his/her issues, opportunities or concerns. Even in moments where we have done this vital preparation, we still need to be prepared to review and cover our “selling proposition” in detail. Now, not just detail or all the details, but “detail enough” to secure the customers commitment to the sale. Sorting out this delicate balancing act, figuring out how to “Sell the suit, but not the buttons,” is the core of this essay.

In my experience, it is so tempting to be given a venue to share your thoughts and expertise, that all of us are tempted to “go overboard” with un-needed levels of details. At times, it is a matter of “showing off” on how much one knows, whether with our without intent. At times I have seen it a result of the level of preparation or pre-work gone haywire. I was in a recent customer meeting that was going well from the first minute. The “buyer” was excited about our category, our brand and our products and seemed ready to “buy” almost anything we were selling. After a few questions to help us understand the landscape and the buyer’s headset, my sales lead dove into the “deck” and started presenting our proposition. As I said above, the buyer loved it and started saying “yes” immediately. Now this was on page 5 of a 25 page presentation and rather than slowing down and taking a breath, (see a previous essay titled “PBR: pause/Breathe/Reconnect”) the sales person kept driving forward, clearly unaware of the buyers status of already being “sold.” After a page or two more I intervened, literally placing my hand on the sales persons arm to get them to stop speaking for a moment, and asked the buyer a few questions on potential next steps, and any additional information requirements. They had no follow-up questions, needed no additional information, and instead wanted to talk about timing and executional elements. Quickly we turned to page 24 & 25, shared the dates, and timing of our plan which the buyer loved and 5 minutes later we were done. We sold the “suit”, but almost had the “buttons “get in the way!

I see this situation all too often, and sometimes at very high levels in meetings between senior executives. Work hard to use questions to help understand the “selling landscape.” Stay very aware to buyer’s needs, and responses to your selling propositions. Remember to practice “PBR” and slow down enough to actually see where you might stand in the situation and work to understand what the buyer needs/wants to know in order to say “yes” to your proposition. And finally, try hard to remember to “sell the suit, don’t sell the buttons” as you work to have success in your “selling moments!”