Stop Selling and Start Educating


Outbound sales and marketing are dying…(or at least becoming a lot less effective!).

The folks over at Hubspot pointed this out almost 2 years when they talked about Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing.  To me it’s intuitively clear  the internet, along with caller-id and sophisticated phone systems have made it much more difficult to successfully sell a prospect that isn’t currently in a buying mode.

However if you’re like most business owners, you’re spending a good portion of your time thinking about how you can ‘sell’ your stuff to your target market.

Stop selling and start educating!

Education as a strategy

You might be thinking…I don’t really want to educate my prospects, I just want them to buy something.  Why would I waste my time with a round about approach of education?

1.  Most people aren’t in Buying Mode right now!

Last spring I had a chance to read The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes.  It is one of the best (and most practical) business books that I’ve ever read in terms of focusing on what it takes to sell products or services.

There are a lot of great discussion points in the book.  One of the things that really caught my attention was the discussion in Chapter 4 about people that are ‘buying now’.  Based on his personal experience and research, the author, Mr. Holmes, determined that in any given group of people, only about 3% are ready to buy something right now.  You can see the rest of the breakdown in the illustration below:

So if you want to reach more than that 3%, then you need to make your sales pitch worthwhile, and the best way to reach the most people is to educate them on industry trends or issues that impact them (and position you and your product as a likely answer).

There’s a free download of Chapter 4 of the Ultimate Sales Machine on Chet Holmes website if you’d like to learn more about this idea.

2.  Position yourself as an expert

The other thing an education approach can do for you is position you as the expert in your field.  All things being equal, if I have a choice between two providers of a product or a service, I’m going to go with an expert over just a sales guy every time.

Establish your expertise by strategically teaching me about all the issues, implications and problems that I’m likely already facing (since I’m in your target market) – framing you and your product as the most obvious solution (and by framing, I don’t mean stretching things so you magically ‘fit’ the best – you need to actually have the best solution).

Keep this in mind – experts don’t compete on price.

3.  Become the trusted advisor

Although this is much more of a long term play and may not apply to everyone, using an education strategy is the best way to set yourself up for the long term win-win relationship of being the customer’s trusted advisor.  If you can reach this level, not only do they want to buy your product / service, they want your help configuring it to work for them, they want your help selecting products or services that you don’t sell (talk about influence in an industry…) and they will look to you for long term support for the next time they’re ready to buy!

Become a trusted advisor by educating your customers on the big picture within your industry and helping create win-win scenarios so their business thrives!  Help them succeed and solve problems.

Keep this in mind – trusted advisors don’t compete on price and they get to sell add-on products and services without any competition!

How do you educate?

The next time you find yourself thinking about a sales pitch, maybe you should back up and think about developing a core story of data that will benefit your customers and make them more effective in their business.  It will also educate them on the buying criteria for your industry so they understand the value of your product and service, not just the price.

What core story could you use to educate your target market on your industry?  If you’re in health benefits / insurance right now, you are talking about health care reform.  If you’re a lawyer specializing in business formation, educate your prospects on the downstream implications (taxes, sale of the business, maintenance) of choosing an S-Corp over an LLC.  If you sell landscaping services, educate your prospects and clients on the trees and plants that thrive in the local climate (and those that don’t).

What’s your core story?  How do you educate your customers?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coaching

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