I was recently speaking with the technical director of an air and moisture barrier company. He was telling me how frustrating it is when he can’t get customers to see why his barrier is superior.
I wondered the same thing, so I asked him to sell me his barrier. I played the part of a home builder.
He started right in on the technical superiority of his barrier. He was losing me fast.
He wasn’t helping me. If anything he was making my life more difficult. By just showing me what made his product was superior, he was making me do work I shouldn’t have to.
If I scheduled six air barrier companies to make presentations to me on the same day, they would all show me why their barrier is superior. Let’s assume that none of them are lying, they are just making sure that I pay attention to their strengths and not their weaknesses.
That creates a lot of work for me. Now, I have to figure which barrier is really the best for my needs. Since I don’t have the time to figure this out for myself, I’ll probably just keep using my current barrier.
Creating a Frame of Reference
I stopped his sales presentation and said, “Here, let me sell you.” Now, I was the salesperson and he was the builder.
I started my sales presentation by giving the builder a frame of reference for the barrier I was selling. That frame of reference got the builder to let go of any preconceptions and made him look at barriers with an open mind.
I started at the beginning. Why were barriers first used? What was the job of a barrier? As we learned how to make houses tighter and more energy-efficient, what problems did we create? How have barriers improved over time? What are the biggest problems builders are facing today?
This introduction took less than three minutes but it gave him (as the builder) an important frame of reference where my new barrier makes sense. It’s not just another “better than the other guy” barrier.
I showed him how the competitive barriers were part of this evolution. This led him to the conclusion that the next step in barrier technology is the one my new barrier provides.
Why a Frame of Reference Is So Effective
A frame of reference reminds the customer:
- The purpose of your product – you’d be amazed at how many customers have forgotten the role of your product
- How often they’ve changed the product they use – changing to a new barrier is more normal than they realize
Not every builder says yes, but even the ones who say no will have a seed planted in their mind. It changes the question from “should I switch?” to “when should I switch?”
The technical director immediately understood how much more effective it was to create a frame of reference for the customer to help them better understand his new barrier. He developed his own and much more polished version of how I sold him his own product.
I checked back a few weeks later and he told me the results have been amazing. Now that more customers understand why his barrier is better, he’s no longer frustrated.
Frames of Reference Work with Every Type of Sale
If I were a salesperson for a distributor trying to get a contractor to become a customer, I would follow a similar process.
I would start by talking about the role the distributor has played historically and how that has changed to better meet the needs of today’s contractor customer. I would then cover all the ways my distributorship is changing.
Done correctly, the contractor will realize that they want to be with the distributor who has the best understanding of their changing needs and is doing something to meet them.
Frame Your Product
If you aren’t getting your sales message across to customers as well as you’d like, try using a frame of reference.
I’d love to hear your experiences with taking a different approach to getting the customer to understand the value of your product.