Software Nerd

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Philosophy for Salespeople?

In "The Art of Fiction" (Ch 10), Ayn Rand speaks of dramatizing a scene versus narrating it. While narrative is indispensable, important parts must be dramatized. This makes them concrete to the reader. If supported only by narrative, they remain "floating".

Worse still, narrative can sometimes contradict the concretes. Rand says: "Whenever you make estimates in narrative... sure that the action and dialogue support your estimate. If you say that a man's conversation is sophisticated—show it. Otherwise, do not make the estimate."

A good salesman understands this. Even a rookie salesman won't say something as abstract as "this car is good"; but, even saying "this car is fast", or "this car is silent", or "it's economical" is a little "floating". One has to help the customer concretize what that means. Concretes: "even today, a full tank of gas will only cost you $25", "this uses half the fuel of your current car, in a year that'll save you $1,500 on gas", etc.

A silicon valley venture-capitalist got so tired of sales-pitches that were long on narrative that he laid down what he described as the "no adjectives" rule. Here is a little of what this investor said:

I hate adjectives. I don't want to hear that one of the company founders is a "fantastic sales exec." I want to hear that she was Presidents Club the last twelve years running.

I don't want to hear that the product is "revolutionary and paradigm-shifting." I want to hear about the specific features of the product that are differentiated and how.

I don't want to hear that the company has "massive market traction." I want to see a graph of progressive quarterly sales and a giant sales pipeline.

How's that for everyday philosophy.



  • Great post! How relevant.

    In the sales gig, we call those "proof points". I call them concretizations (for which I seem to have become known for by my sales people)

    By Blogger Kendall J, at 3:23 PM  

  • Before I retired, one of my best (most lucrative!) clients was a Sales Training department at a major electronics company. They made the same point--tie claims to reality--with this progression of terms:
    1. Features: e.g., a measurement instrument that has a small "footprint" on a design-engineer's workbench.
    2. Advantages: e.g., the small footprint allows the design-engineer to arrange more equipment at hand.
    3. Benefits: e.g., having more accessible equipment cuts test-setup time and therefore product development time, making the engineer shine in a performance review.

    The trainers taught "Never a feature without a benefit; and never a benefit without a feature."

    By Blogger Burgess Laughlin, at 4:16 AM  

  • "FAB-ing" ... I was one a student in a lecture for software engineers, taught by the marketing manager of our company. He said there were only two lessons he wanted us to take away:

    The first was "FAB-ing". He said that we nerds tended to speak to customers and prospects in terms of features, and we needed to go all the way to benefits.

    BTW: The second lesson was "probing". He said that nerds are often shy of asking too many questions, while that is truly the only way to find out what the customer wants.

    I remember him saying something like: "customers trust you guys ten times more than they trust my sales guys, ... if I can improve your selling skills by just 10% it will be well worth it".

    By Blogger softwareNerd, at 5:45 PM  

  • I am fascinated by getting back to concretes. I think I'm weak on it--which has terrible implications for so much of what I think I know.

    By Blogger Kim, at 6:44 PM  

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