A report from CSO insights indicated that the percentage of salespeople making quota has dropped from 63 percent to 53 percent over a five-year period—from 2012 to 2016.
The reasons for this could vary:
- Selling has become more challenging with the changes in consumer behavior.
- Salespeople’s selling techniques are not as effective anymore as they were five years ago.
- The supply of goods offered has saturated the market
- The sales distribution has spread thinly among individual salespeople.
Regardless of the reason, selling comes with its challenges and some selling scenarios make it even more challenging than it already is.
Let us discuss challenging selling scenarios through the following sales case studies and how to deal with them.
1. Selling Something People Could Get for FREE
Some products that are being sold have some free alternatives that people can get to. Examples include paid content and their free content alternative, CRMs, project management tools, and others. However, some businesses are able to sell these products and make good business out of it.
Charging for something that could be obtained for free is feasible.
That’s the reason why services and products vary immensely as well – from smartphones through finding a carpenter or looking for apartments in the same area.
So, how do you sell something that people could get for free?
Bottled water is a great case study.
Identifying the Options to Build Your Case
First, you need to identify the options and how it presents an opportunity for your product.
Let’s review what the options are if you want to gather water for free. Roughly speaking, you can either drink tap water or go to the nearest mountain or lake with seemingly good water.
Tap water is known to contain certain chemicals like chlorine and aluminum sulfate. Pesticides and herbicides can also be found in some tests of tap water.
This could cause asthma or different forms of skin damage, along with weakening the cells and a number of known and unknown problems (that add up with time).
It’s dependent on the region, your neighborhood, the building, and the pipe installation in your home. Filtering is not a top priority for many since tap water wasn’t meant to be consumed orally in the first place. Some safety mechanisms are in place but that’s not nearly enough. Plus, if you visit relatives or friends, there’s no way you can test the water upfront (every time).
Spring water is somewhat clean as it’s being filtered through rocks. That said, you can’t rely on the structure of the water in different pools or rivers as it depends on different factors – like the flora or fauna living there, how far the stream is from the source and the like (there are studies out there that explain everything more scientifically).
What makes your product better?
You also need to determine what makes your product better. This will help convince people to pay a premium.
In the case of bottled water, here are the features:
Bottled Water Obeys Standards
Unlike tap water or spring water, selling bottled water means complying with certain governmental standards.
In the US, bottled water must meet the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations as set by the EPA. That said, purchasing 100 bottles automatically means that they all contain the same ingredients and you’re somewhat safe to drink that in the long run.
This isn’t necessarily the case. There is a certain formula that each brand follows (through distilling and filtering) which leads to higher or lower volume of given minerals in the water. Some studies suggest switching water brands in order to keep the balance intact.
Moreover, plastic bottles release small amounts of chemicals over time. The regulations may also be somewhat loose – testing for certain bacteria just once a week as compared to several times a day (leaving a gap where less clean water may be released to the public).
Overall, it’s know to be safer.
And that process of gathering and transporting water, filtering, dealing with the FDA and EPA, marketing, shipping to supermarkets is obviously resource-consuming – thus the price of the bottled water (in addition to the plastic itself).
It’s Also a Commodity
It’s much easier to grab a bottle from the store next door instead of carrying a couple of large bottles every day from home on your way to work. The same goes for restaurants and different public places. Bottled water is the second most commonly purchased beverage in the US.
All things considered, there are good reasons why bottled water is priced when people can obtain it for free. The filtering process is different and is standardized across brands. It’s more widely available than public sources (except for tap water) and it’s easier to carry small bottles whenever needed.
Other goods, resources, tools, or services follow a similar process. Professional vendors invest in different activities improving the quality of a product or a service – leading to higher demand and an actual business model. Free products and services always come with limitations – a premium provider can invest in customer support, the
To sum it up, identify pressing problems that free alternatives face (in this case, lack of standardization and possible health risks) and turn the narrative in your favor.
2. Selling Products With Many Competitors
Is your business one of the many vendors selling different flavors of the same product (or in a niche with tons of competitors)?
This is where storytelling comes into play.
Nobody needs features. People need solutions to problems in their specific industry.
Storytelling In Marketing And Sales
Storytelling allows for putting those features to work by defining practical scenarios. Each business is unique in a way – there is a company mission and there are business goals. And the company culture.
There’s a backstory to starting the business, and an ideal subset of problems that are uniquely solved by a solution.
What Makes You Different?
If you are entering a saturated market, the question is: what makes you different?
There are tons of supermarkets, design agencies, dentist offices. Yet, each one of them profiles in something unique or has some vibe attuned to the energy of their ideal audience.
- Nike is selling sports equipment. But aside from the notorious “Just do it”, they’ve positioned themselves with multiple influencer-baked stories through athletes like Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, and lots of football players.
- McDonald’s spent $2.3 million in 1967 for a national advertising campaign, building a solid brand, pioneering in outstanding customer service, and innovating in the “Happy Meals” department. Since then, they’ve created hundreds of incredible campaigns, including “love story” journeys with marriage proposals in their stores, responses to international events, pivot in takeaway products (among others).
- Apple wasn’t the first vendor of smartphones or headphones, and unlike other players like Dell, they were the only company that positioned themselves as a leader across multiple categories. Their original mission statement was “making personal computing accessible to each and every individual”. They rebranded themselves from “Apple Computers” to “Apple” to enlarge their item portfolio, and pitched their audience via incredible designs, simplicity, and user-friendliness (instead of boasting about RAM or CPUs).
Businesses operate in different manners and follow various business processes. Some focus on quality, others – on price.
Each market has value for a specific audience.
In order to build the bond between your business and your market, you need a story that serves as the bridge between you and your customers.
3. Selling Expensive Solutions to SMEs
The thing is, most small and medium business owners provide services or products that are not completely digital. Those that sell online goods and services would do just fine through on-site and online sales and marketing.
Categories of Solutions
Most “outstanding” solutions fall in one of the following categories:
- Those that would bring a ton of new customers to a business.
- Solutions that depend on someone who will manage the process, configure parameters, and talk to support staff in order to leverage the solution (after the onboarding/training process).
- Automation tools that will simplify the process (and possibly grow the traffic or bring new leads).
- Software that promises everything but won’t commit to a “money-back guarantee” if something goes wrong.
If I receive a hard offer for something that would yield a good multiplier on an annual basis and I’m 100% confident that this would work, I’ll pay the right amount. But that’s never the case.
For instance, if your software truly promises 3x growth of the business in a year, a company may not be able to cope with hiring and training in order to accommodate that growth.
And some businesses do prefer to stay small. Not every company aims to be the next Facebook or Airbnb.
Other tools depend on team members who are heavily involved in operations, maintenance, adherence to a process. A business may be unable to allocate the resources required for the job. A small team only employs so many decision-makers and managers capable of allocating a good chunk of their time on something new that may or may not work.
Guaranteeing ROI is not realistic, either. Unless it’s a “black hat” type of technique, it probably depends on other factors.
All in all, if you build the right case and warm up a lead enough, you may be able to close a (new) customer with the right proposition. But it may take a while until you get a portfolio of customers that would confirm that your solution works as advertised.
4. Selling Overseas
There are plenty of ways – some traditional, others – creative.
- Are you selling services or products, digital or physical, B2B or B2C?
- Do you target a single country or worldwide?
- What are the demographics of your target audience?
- What techniques do competitors use for selling?
B2C and B2B Strategies
For B2C sales (less expensive digital products/services) digital marketing and advertising work well. Here’s what else you need to consider as a set of strategies for multinational sales penetration.
- Influencer marketing is a good investment, albeit long-term (takes a while working with multiple influencers on targeted campaigns).
- Hiring a local salesperson in each area is also a great idea. Selling more expensive products in a specific country (say, the US) may justify hiring a local salesperson there. Attending conferences, trade shows, meetups – and meeting prospects locally.
- Social media works in all cases, along with a well-maintained blog. The latter takes a while and is contingent on your content strategy and keyword research.
- Personal branding online could help you land podcast appearances and other interviews. Being able to position yourself in the right media outlets (that your prospects read) may yield good results.
- Consider partnerships, too. This is extremely valuable if you team up with a business managing a portfolio of “ideal” clients providing other services (complementing yours).