Fable Friday:  Positioning Russian cars and other tips

At the height of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was trying desperately to keep pace with the U.S. while boasting of its own superiority, they issued a challenge to the U.S.:  our Russian-made Zil automobile in a track race against your Ford.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedWell, it was no contest, and after a few laps the Ford simply cruised away, leaving the inferior Zil far behind.  So what was the Soviet newspaper Pravda to do with this unhappy news? Here’s how they positioned it the next day:

“In a recent track race featuring the Soviet Zil and the American Ford, the Zil finished second, while the American Ford was next to last.”

Had the reader not known it was a two-car race it would be easy to think the Zil had prevailed.

Now I’m not suggesting that you should create disingenuous phrasing like this to delude your customers, but you should give some thought to the way you position the most common questions and statements when speaking with anyone you are trying to influence.

For example, if you are selling a product or a service, you might position the way you explain the price.  If your offer has some high price tag, position how much it costs for a small period of time.  That’s what health clubs and insurance companies do.  Suppose the product costs $300 to $400.  You will see ads that say, “For just a dollar a day, you can enjoy the peace of mind of having this unbelievable coverage…”

And if the investment you are selling has a rather modest return, you calculate the total benefit over a long period of time and position it that way: “After ten years your initial investment of $X will be worth more than $100,000.” And so on.

The same thinking applies when you must ask difficult questions of prospects or customers. You can position these also.  Let’s look at one.

“When are you planning to retire?” you ask, which may cause the customer to feel the question is a bit too intrusive or abrupt.

But here’s an easy model to fix this:

Step One:  What do you want to know?  What is your question?

Step Two:  Ask yourself, “What is the customer-centric reason why I am asking the question?”  Your reason must be one that benefits the customer.  How does he gain by responding?

Step Three:  In statement form, tell your customer the reason you came up with in step two.

Step Four:  Now ask the question.

So let’s work through the question, “When are you planning to retire?” Why would you want to know this?  Well, if you’re selling retirement plans, investment or wealth services, or insurance, you certainly want to know this.  But the key is, “What is the customer-centric reason?”  If you’re thinking like your customer, you know that a big fear is outliving your money.  People worry that if they retire at the wrong time they won’t have enough put away.

So let’s tell the customer this in Step Three:  “My experience has been that most people worry that they may not have enough put away to live comfortably, so my role is to help you make the right decisions now about how much and how often to invest, and of course that solution begins with knowing your planned retirement date, so may I ask when are you planning to retire?”

Positioning is easy if you just…

Think Like Your Customer

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About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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