I’ve used Sage Instant Accounts software since 2000 to process my business accounting. It does a great job at a very mundane task crunching numbers. In fact I’ve been running the same version 10 since 2006, and I’ve not upgraded because there’s been no value to do so. After all numbers and figures are just that…numbers and figures.
Out of nowhere the sales rep from Sage phoned me. Happy to talk to him, I let him do his sales pitch. His manner and style were excellent, a nice bloke. Shame about his sales process though.
He tried hard to persuade me to upgrade to the latest version 16. He offered me several features all at once just like a machine gun on the flanks of a First World War battlefield. But no bullets hit me. He dangled price reductions in front of me, free online support, a trial version…everything in fact to get me to pay the £90 to upgrade.
In desperation he asked me, “why won’t you upgrade?”
“Because there’s no benefits for me, no value, I’m not suffering any problems, my VAT works, my invoicing works fine, it’s a quick and responsive programme, never crashes, my accounting just works, I have no problems with it.”
This morning, during my annual meeting with my accountant and book keeper, I was advised to upgrade my Sage package. Why I asked. “Because it’ll make it easier to do your accounts Mr Archer when you send us the Sage file each year, that old system you use is causing us problems, it’s now incompatible with our software.”
Now I have a problem.
If only the sales rep from Sage had known this or had suggested the incompatibility problem during our telephone conversation.
You see, nowadays if you’re selling something, you should know what your customer’s problems are before you get on the phone. Most of us send a file to our accountant every year who crunches everything at his end and produces the Report and Accounts and Corporation Tax Returns. He doesn’t want to maintain 20 or so different versions of software programmes on his PC. That causes him pains which he passes onto me and now it’s my pain.
Do your research into your customer’s problems before you call not during the call, and then ask questions that reveal them. Then close the deal. Here are five tips to help you:
- Segment your marketplace so you know it well and can study the generic problems and pains that your industry sector suffers. A pal of mine is a financial adviser to dentists and knows exactly what the current problems and challenges are facing this industry.
- Set up Goole Alerts to let you know what’s going on in your industry and potential clients. These are free and will allow you to receive each day anything that has appeared on the internet for certain key words. Blog posts, newswires, web pages…anything that has your key words in it. For example, you might be calling on a company called MGC Widgets so key into Google Alerts MGC Widgets and you’ll get any posting about this company. Cool eh?
- Keep your radar open for other Trigger events. This term, created by Jill Konrath, in her excellent book Snap Selling, helps you harvest information that can help you when you are making calls on potential customers. Look out for internal trigger events that are occurring within the company and external trigger events, coming from outside the firm but within the industry. Jill’s point is that clients are too frazzled nowadays to be able to engage you in a conversation about their pains and problems, you’re expected to know them if you want entry.
- When you know how your product or service can solve the problem they may have, put this into your telephone opening as your “Hook“
- Then you need to open the conversation to see if this problem is real for them and personalise it. Ask for how they are handling this issue. For example, “Bob, the new legislation due next year is affecting many of my clients, can I ask how it might impact on your business?”
On refection, the sales rep from Sage might’ve figured that any client operating version 10 might be having problems with their compatibility with their accountant’s versions. Armed with this problem he had a solution and could’ve made a sale quite easily.
But I still have a problem. How to upgrade my version with no hassle particularly making sure the data file remains compatible. I do hope Sage have Google Alerted this and would phone me tomorrow morning.