In the sales process customers often have a wish list of features/ expectations they are shopping for. Those range from “must haves” (hard requirements) to “nice to haves” (soft requirements). Understanding and addressing those is a key responsibility of the sales team.
Recently I went shopping for a new vehicle. I wanted something offered capable, under $30,000, preferably 2 doors, light colored, and dog friendly. Now for me “I went shopping” means first I did 6 months research reading reviews, looking at product specs, reading forums and looking at an assortment of aftermarket parts and modifications.
I narrowed my choices down to two vehicles. A Nissan Xterra (last model year) or a Jeep Wrangler 2 door. Plenty of differences between those two options for folks who are familiar with them, but each scratched a certain set of itches for me.
I tried to buy an Xterra first. Drove 90 minutes to a dealer who said he had the model and color I wanted (white) on the lot. Got there and he didn’t actually have it. Shortest visit to a dealer ever.
2 hours later at the Jeep dealer… They had 3 Jeeps left on the lot that met my criteria. 2 door, no power anything, hard top and the gearing ratio I wanted. Only problem? I had the Henry Ford color option to choose from. I could have any color I wanted as long as it was black. Black in Texas is not a popular color choice… which probably explained why the last 3 Jeeps of the model year which met my other criteria were all the same color.
Meet my new black Jeep….
Cool story bro… What’s your point?
When I drove onto the Jeep dealer’s lot “light color” was one of my hard requirements. I live in Texas, it’s currently 102 degrees at 11AM. I didn’t want a dark colored Jeep and with dozens to choose from in my area was no need to move off of that hard requirement. I’d eliminated dark colored Xterras from consideration and had passed on speaking with Nissan dealers who said they had dark ones in stock (but not white).
But when I got on the lot, the sales rep took the time to listen to what I was looking for and found a way to make it work. Hard requirements are sometimes not as hard as we might think in the sales cycle. It’s important to understand what is behind requirements you may not meet 100% (or at all). What is the customer really asking for when they say that a product “must integrate seamlessly” with another product? What is a customer looking for when they ask for “a single pane of glass” solution? Take the time to understand how the customer will use the product, how it will be supported internally and how it will be maintained over time. Really understand the requirements so you can best demonstrate how your product meets the customer’s real needs and will integrate into their environment.
One last note on customer requirements. Once you’ve shown them that you take their requirements seriously, don’t miss the opportunity to show the customer some of your unique and compelling features and explain to them the business value that they provide. Customer requirements can be fluid, if you can add your strengths to the customer’s perceived needs for a solution it helps position yours as the best choice when it comes time to buy.