There’s something inherently wrong with how most manufacturers’ sales are done. The days of simply showcasing features, benefits, service, quality and price passed us by long ago. It’s the price of entry to the conversation with your prospects.

Producers of consumer goods figured that out, adjusted to it, and are thriving. They figured out that the best, deepest (and quickest) connections come when they addressed things like value-add … an experience … and feelings.

So, why hasn’t the rest of the industry caught up yet?

Good question. Selling more — whether it be a product or an idea — is not that hard. The problem is, most sellers and communicators have the process completely flipped on its head. They start at the end, rather than the beginning. In truth, they’re their own worst enemy when it comes to getting (and keeping) new customers.

And it’s especially true for heavily engineering- or accounting-dominated organizations.

What do I mean? Simply put, they approach the sales process rationally. But the buyer starts on an almost purely emotional, reactionary basis. Talk about two ships passing in the night!

What’s more, most sellers approach the challenge from their point of view — saying what the organization wants them to say, rather than what will truly resonate with the buyer and the buyer’s initial mind frame.

Think you’re not one of them? Go take a look at your website. Most manufacturer websites are horrendous…hard to navigate, all about them, and very factual without a trace of “customer experience” to be found. Got it? OK…not let’s talk about what to do about it.

The Big Question to Answer

You’ve got to get their attention. Problem is, most of your competitors are all saying the same thing as your salespeople. Features, benefits, details and specifications all have their place in the decision making cycle, but bottom line, the best and most successful organizations answer the question in their buyers’ minds that trumps all others:

“What’s in it for me?”

Countless blogs, books and articles have been written about how almost all decisions are emotionally-based. We can’t help it; we’re human. Once our emotional need is satisfied, we’re masters at using the available rational information to justify that primal desire. We quickly re-frame the story we tell ourselves and others in order to feel good that we made a smart decision.

It’s not a conscious thing; most people like to think they’re fairly altruistic in their outlook — that they’re thinking of others, rather than themselves. But even the ability to feel altruistic is, at its core, satisfying an emotional need. Think about what really drives the person you’re selling to: It might be the need to look better to their boss … satisfy the many departments that have to be appeased … feel like they’ve “won” the negotiation … or perhaps just that they feel listened to.

The “me” factor is always there; the key is digging in and finding what really drives the buyer.

The problem is, you can’t always just ask them — often, they’re not consciously aware of their own internal needs. Instead, they’ll give you the easy and non-threatening rational reasons. Research and data can tell you all you need to know about the rational side. But what most research doesn’t tell you is WHY they’ve chosen those rational responses … what’s REALLY behind them? That takes repeated questioning in a variety of ways … testing various approaches … and ultimately developing relationships where your audience feels comfortable letting their guard down.

Beyond sales and marketing

Good leaders and communicators know, too, that they have to answer the same question if they’re truly going to engage their internal teams in the company’s vision, mission and values.

It’s easy to measure whether staff has memorized the statement on the wall. It’s quite another task to deeply seat that statement and those values into highly engaged teams who believe in them so much that their very actions unintentionally reflect those in the way they treat each other and the customer every day.

Again, it comes down to identifying the “what’s in it for me” factor. When you’re able to relate exactly how their individual job duties tie back to the mission and the brand, success comes easier.

Identifying and operationalizing the “what’s in it for me” — whether you’re selling ideas internally or products and services externally — is when you stop “selling” and start a longer-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

It’s when you start truly living your story.