When Your Old Shoes Are No Longer Good Enough…

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Last weekend I was out with my son in the city to buy him a pair of basketball shoes. He is 12 years old and progressed recently to the school team for his Grade. While he was trying multiple models out, the salesperson and I started to chat about how important it is for the schools to promote the kids playing sport. When I was younger, doing sport was just “the normal” but nowadays kids are exposed to so many entertainment alternatives, in particular, “Gaming”, that doing sport or being a member of a sporting club cannot always be taken for granted.

“How about you?” asked the salesperson while my son was testing jumping, pivoting and running on his chosen model. I shared with her that I wanted to set the right example for my children so I cycled frequently and had set myself a new goal this year to run a half marathon. She looked at the runners I was wearing and asked politely if these were the runners I was planning to do that with. She took me a bit by surprise with that question because for me shoes are shoes, the ones I was wearing were not too old and felt still comfortable. I had been training on them for the last couple of weeks. Then she shared something else I had not considered before; she said: “With all my respect, I get probably at least three to five, half marathon-aspiring joggers in the shop every weekend and I feel obliged to tell them that more than 50% of knee and hip injuries with marathon runners are caused by not wearing the right footwear”. I had actually never thought about that, I looked down at my runners and realized that for what I was set out to do…my old shoes were just not good enough. I did not want to risk any knee or hip injuries, at my age I should look after my body. So we left the shop with two new pairs of shoes.

The point is that the sales lady did a very good selling job. I was sold on the risk, she pointed out, of not changing and sticking to what I have.  In B2B selling we do not do this enough, but if well done, it is very effective. Why is that?

Let me demonstrate this through what happened when I went out on a prospect meeting with Jim, a seasoned salesperson. We met with Christine, Head of Operations and Logistics. Jim had done his homework well, he understood where Christine was in her buying process; only a few weeks ago she not interested in changing and since Jim had shared several insights that made Christine thinking: “Maybe changing supplier was a good idea, everything Jim shared about his company’s capabilities sounded like something her business would benefit from. Together they had defined criteria that should be met if Christine was going to make the change. But Jim was more expensive than her current supplier and now she started to wonder if sticking with what she had was for the moment just good enough.

Why didn’t Jim get the business?

Risk of not changing

A crucial mistake was made. Jim was talking only about what his company’s capabilities could mean for Christine’s business. He threw all the features, advantages and benefits as the outcome. Although Christine could see the additional value of changing to something better and even pay more for that extra value, her perceived value of her current supplier and set-up was still high. And in her mind, the extra value of the new supplier was not big enough to make that change.

Had Jim shared with Christine the risks involved sticking with her current set-up, and how that would not give her the results she is looking for her business, then her perceived value of the current supplier would have been reduced significantly. By then describing how a better world would look like when switching to Jim’s company: now Christine’s perceived value of Jim’s company is a lot bigger and the higher price more justified.

Salespeople would be a lot more successful if they would first focus on selling the risks for the customer of not changing, rather then leading with their own features, advantages, and benefits.

For what I am set out to do, my old shoes are simply not good enough. Receiving that insight made me want to change. Only then I was really ready for looking at a new pair of running shoes.

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