Your Customer Wants Strategic, Not Tactical Benefits

Home » Presentations and Communication » Your Customer Wants Strategic, Not Tactical Benefits


Identifying the customer’s real needs is critical to faciliate a sale. Matching it with your unique capabilities enables you to prepare for a winning sales presentation.

In Conversations that Win the Complex Sale, Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer note that company sales presentations need to positioned from strength. They needs to stress the strategic need that your customer has, so he/she understands why it’s important; you need to assert your strength – why you are “uniquely” qualified to meet that need; and you need to defend that statement with proof.

Most importantly, these presentations cannot be based on facts alone – they need to be embedded in a story that evokes the emotions of your audience and drive them to the conclusion that your proposal is a competent business solution and that you and your team are a reliable, trusted partner.

The issue is what do customers really care about. Simply reciting the countless benefits that customers in general receive from buying your product or services will have little more impact that reciting all the advantageous features you’re offering.  Through proper discovery, the sales person’s job is to understand what the customer really cares about and then link the immediate benefits of specific features to the overriding benefits that the customer really wants.  A standard example of the former concept is the observation that when someone goes into Home Depot for a quarter inch drill, that’s not what the person really wants; he wants a quarter inch hole.  But the real benefit that the customer wants is to easily, safely and inexpensively put up the bookshelves.

Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer makes this point in Conversations that Win the Complex Sale when they note that sales people should (1) fully understand the context in which the customer lives, (2) explore what’s truly behind customer’s needs, and then (3) position the sales presentation on the core need and not simply react to the immediate response.

Working with Volvo, he discovered that its sales people focused on the features of its tractor cabs which customers ask about – wider windshield size, placement of the engine block, and a list of creature comforts. This led to a “spec war” with competitors, and the need for discounting. While fleet manager-buyers want happy drivers, their real need was increased productivity; this is an industry where driver unhappiness generating high turnover and excess costs. So they focused on fleet productivity as their Distinctive Sales Proposition (DSP): driver satisfaction affects turnover, and turnover affects productivity and profitability. Driver dissatisfaction undermines these strategic results and threatens customer success. Volvo then measured the results of this approach; the length of time for a deal (sales rep cycle time) declined by 25-30% and pricing premiums went up 3%.

Similarly, they helped a commercial cleaning company switch from discussions on cleaning service features and prices to focusing on the customer’s strategic goals: increase their ability to market office space and grow rental incomes. They shifted clients’ focus from “cleaning spaces” to “cleaning for health”: by focusing on keeping the office space healthier, tenants would discover lower absenteeism and increased productivity – which translates into greater profitability for tenants – and an extra reason to be part of the building! Their power position was “Get a healthier clean at no extra cost”.

In other words, when you use our winning sales approach, ADAP (Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations), the focus needs to be on the buyer’s strategic goals, not just the tactical ones. So explore and discover the real source of the pain/gain driving the buyer, and then plan a thorough presentation to meet those needs.

What’s your experience?  What’s your power position?  Share with us.