The F A B Sales Method

This article discusses a proven sales technique that will be helpful to beginners and seasoned sales people alike – The F. A. B. Method.

Any seasoned sales representative will tell you that there are many components to the sales process. Among them are prospecting, getting the appointment, qualifying the prospect, identifying needs, making the presentation, checking for agreement and closing the sale.

Some would argue with me on this, but I believe that they are all equally important. You can’t get to step “B” without having successfully completed step “A”, and so on. That all important close would not be successful without first laying the groundwork, step by step.

Having said that, I would like to concentrate today on what many would consider the “meat” of the sales call – the presentation, specifically, a method called F.A.B.

Many well-intentioned sales people head out to the appointment without a clear plan of what they are going to say during their presentation. Perhaps they are new to the company and still learning the product line. Others might jump at the chance to enthusiastically rattle off all the many features of their product or service. While others, many who have been selling a long time, just like to improvise.

All of these approaches will produce hit-or-miss results, at best.

Salespeople need an organized approach. They need to present the product or service in such a way that the potential customer can readily see what’s in it for them. A long-standing, tried-and-true method to make sales happen is the F. A. B. approach.

F. A. B. stands for Features, Advantages and Benefits. It is a way of taking your prospects through the thought process of “so what does that mean for me?” After all, that is really all they care about.

Here’s the process:

During your meeting, after you have asked questions to determine what needs there may be for your product or service, tell them that as you understand it, they have a concern about how to save money (improve safety, or whatever) within their operation. It is important that the prospective customer knows you have been listening and understand their concerns. Tell them that you believe that your company can supply a solution to this concern. (I don’t like to say “problem” as many people don’t like to admit they have a problem.) Taking one feature at a time, starting with the one that will have the most impact, begin to discuss the features, advantages and benefits of your product or service.

FEATURE – A feature is a characteristic of a product or service.

Briefly discuss a feature of your product or service. I say “briefly” because you don’t want to take up a lot of time on this as the customer really doesn’t care about the feature at this point.

ADVANTAGE – The advantage is what that feature does.

You can spend a little more time talking about the advantage. You will get a sense of the gears going in your customer’s mind as s/he begins to realize what this means. Sometimes the sale is actually made in the customer’s mind during this time, long before you even discuss benefits or close.

BENEFIT – A benefit is how the advantage translates specifically to help that customer: Save time. Make money. Save money. Improve health. Provide peace of mind/security. Insure safety. Increase status.

Many people are under the mistaken impression that they are selling a product or service. What actually sells are the benefits.

Always sell benefits

Some FABs are obvious.

Feature: Our Credit Union members receive a free checking account.

Advantage: They are not charged a monthly fee.

Benefit: You save money every single month.

Feature: Our baby strollers have two safety latches: One on the wheel base and one on the handle.

Advantage: You can easily engage either or both safety latches.

Benefits: Two safety latches provide added safety for your baby and additional peace of mind for you.

Other times they are not so obvious and may not be of value to all customers.

Feature: We provide point-of-purchase displays and signage during this promotion for all distributors.

Advantage: You will receive the same selling tools as the larger stores, regardless of your purchasing volume.

Benefit: You will save time in that we are going to do the promoting for you and you will be on a level playing field with the larger distributors allowing you to make more money.

When talking about the advantages, and especially the benefits, always use the word “you”. This way, the customer can visualize himself actually using the product or service. It’s a great subliminal tool that no one really notices but does influence people.

Your product or service may have many features which translate into advantages and then into benefits. Please don’t make the mistake of telling your prospect everything your product has to offer. Studies show that the optimal number of presentation points are three. After that, people really don’t remember much. Besides, you may only need one FAB. That’s really all it takes.

Be sure to know as many FABs as your product or service has to offer. However, only present the ones (no more than three) that specifically address the concerns that your prospect has revealed during your questioning process. If they are impressed after the first FAB, by all means, ask your checking questions and go for the close.

The FAB method is a proven method for helping the potential customer realize the value of the products or services you are offering.

Learn it. It will serve you and your customers well.

Four Types of Marketing For Small Businesses

As a small business owner, you most likely spend quite a large amount of time trying to discern new ways to gain customers. Marketing can be a fun or stressful business. They key is to understand the types of marketing.

Instead of sending your marketing budget in many different directions, you can choose a specific type and be consistent with it. You will quickly see that your marketing budget pays off much more quickly.

Here, you will find information on four of the main types of marketing. This way, you will be able to choose the marketing actions that will work best for your business. You will then be able to point your marketing budget in the right direction.

1. Blanket marketing is a type that is often used by larger business. Blanket marketing means that you spend money advertising to everyone. Many people choose to do blanket marketing by advertising in magazines or newspapers. You will not really have control of who sees your advertising, but you will have the potential to reach many people.

The downside to blanket marketing is that it can be quite expensive, and you could be wasting money marketing to people who may never become your customers at all. Blanket marketing is best for those who have plenty of funds available and who feel that they will be able to gain many customers from the plan.

2. Targeted marketing is a method in which you choose a certain demographic and only market to them. This could mean that you advertise to everyone in a certain area. Alternatively, you could advertise to everyone in a certain age range.

The great thing about targeted marketing is that you will have a much better chance at getting customers since you will be advertising to the types of people who would most likely become customers. The downside is that it will take a little legwork to determine who your target is and then find the right way to advertise to them.

3. Social media marketing could be called the new kid in town since it is relatively a young concept. With this marketing, you use any one of the many popular social media sites to advertise your company. You can also use a daily blog to garner business.

The downside to this type of marketing is that you will be sending your information out to many people who may not be interested at all. With blogs, you will have to take the time to keep the blog up to date. Otherwise, people may stop reading it.

4. The last type of marketing is not marketing at all. There are not upsides to this. It may seem like a way to save money, but when your business fails, you will actually lose a great deal of money. It is extremely important to find marketing funds within your budget.

Where Does Advertising Fit Into the Marketing Mix?

Many people get confused about the role of advertising in the marketing mix so here’s a simple view of where it fits in.

In the traditional marketing model, we talk about the 4 P’s

o Product

o Pricing

o Place

o Promotion

The last section – Promotion is what we mean when we say you are “doing your marketing”. It’s your communications or your actual marketing activities.

But first, let’s get clear about the PURPOSE of marketing and why you want to get good at it.

“The PURPOSE of marketing or it’s biggest task is to

persuade prospects to visit you online or offline so you

can present your offer. Done well they come waving their

credit card and ready to buy so there’s no need for hard sell.”

Whenever and wherever you get in front of your potential market is your marketing opportunity – you are communicating or getting your message across.

You could say this started as far back as Babylon when the Town Crier was the only delivery method! They went around town shouting out to people to go to the marketplace and you went to the marketplace with your goods to “present your offer”.

With the invention of print and other technologies you now have a smorgasbord of delivery methods or media to reach people such as

o Print – newspapers, magazines, catalogues, newsletters

o Phone, mail, fax

o Radio & TV,

o Internet – through websites, blogs, social networking sites, email, video & Audio podcasts

o Teleseminars & webinars

o Mobile media – Blackberrys and mobile or cell phones

o And lets not forget in person public speaking and networking

Now that range adds a level of complexity. But choice is good and you don’t have to use all of these but they are available to you.

In any event you’ll either be speaking or writing. Simply narrow down what makes sense for you and your business and use your strengths to work out a plan.

JUST remember the marketing principles remain the same no matter the medium – so the PURPOSE of your marketing is still the same. To persuade prospects to visit you online or offline so you can present your offer.

So where does advertising fit into this?

Advertising is simply a subset of your marketing activities it’s the SALES function when you make the sales pitch or “present your offer”. This could be verbal or written in all the same media you use for your marketing communications. What adds to the confusion is sometimes big companies use image based ads for awareness so the “sales pitch” isn’t obvious.

But the primary purpose of advertising is to SELL.

So you create ads in one form or another and get them in front of your audience.

Small businesses can’t afford to waste money on image advertising that is designed for the masses to promote a well known brand. It simply isn’t designed to sell, NOW.

What I do and recommend is Direct Marketing which is based on one-on-one relationships and uses proven direct response advertising techniques instead of mass advertising.

The purpose of a direct response advertisement is to get a response, NOW! Which means these ads actually ask the prospect to DO something.

Whether you’re building a list, selling a product or service, an appointment or even something you are giving away – you still need to “sell” it to your prospect. And ask them to take the action you want them to take to move them through the sales process.

In a nutshell, advertising is a subset of marketing and direct response marketing and advertising is the champion for small business.

The Definition of Sales – Professional Selling Defined

Before I define professional selling. Let’s look at some of the related professions. Below are some definitions of professions/occupations that relate to professional selling from Wikipedia:

  • Marketing is defined as an ongoing process of planning and executing the marketing mix (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) for products, services or ideas to create exchange between individuals and organizations
  • Advertising is defined as a form of communication that typically attempts to persuade potential customers to purchase or to consume more of a particular brand of product or service.
  • Public relations is defined as the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its audiences.
  • Sales Promotions is defined as the pre-determined actions designed to increase consumer demand, stimulate market demand or improve product availability for a limited time (i.e., contests, point of purchase displays, rebates, free travel, and sales incentives.)

What about the sales profession?

Notice in the above definitions, the profession is *not* defined as the individual. For example, marketing isn’t defined as “people who market.” Yet, the sales profession is often explained as “individuals who sell.” Therefore, selling shouldn’t be defined in this manner. Notice also, that the above professions are *not* defined by the activities of those individuals. In other words, the profession of advertising isn’t defined as “placing ads on television.” Therefore, selling shouldn’t be defined in this manner.

Academically, selling is thought of as a part of marketing, however, the two disciplines are completely different. Sales departments often form a separate grouping in a corporate structure, employing individuals who specialize in sale specific roles. While the sales process refers to a systematic process of repetitive and measurable milestones, the definition of the sales “profession” doesn’t exist (until now with this article).

So the questions become:

  • Who is “in” the profession and who is not?
  • How does selling relate to marketing, advertising, promotions, and public relations?
  • What shared competencies do individuals within the sales profession need?
  • How do these competencies align to roles in terms of focus and differentiation?

A definition should provide a meaning. To determine the meaning of the sale profession, it is useful to determine what the sales profession *must* contain.

The following three tenets are required for professional selling:

  • The focus of the sales profession centers on the human agents involved in the exchange between buyer and seller
  • Effective selling requires a systems approach, at minimum involving roles that sell, enable selling, and develop sales capabilities
  • A specific set of sales skills and knowledge are required to facilitate the exchange of value between buyers and sellers

Within these three tenets the following definition of profession selling is offered by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD):

Professional Selling is:

 “The holistic business system required to effectively develop, manage, enable, and execute a mutually beneficial, interpersonal exchange of goods and/or services for equitable value.”

Note: this definition was published by ASTD in 2009.

What does this definition accomplish?

First, it creates a definition of world class selling. An organization wishing to benchmark its selling effectiveness can leverage the above definition to clearly understand strengths and weaknesses. Without such a definition, most adjustments to the selling team are arbitrary and subjective. By understanding the system’s view required for selling effectiveness, organizations can look at indidual sales team members as well as sales team processes and tools and how they align to the buyer.

Second, it allows for more consistent results in performance through the clear establishment of roles regarding who is “in” and who is “out” of professional selling. For example, if it doesn’t involve a human agent, it is not within the sales profession — it’s a marketing function with a transaction (i.e., a “sale”). For this definition, sales operations, sales recruiters, and sales trainers are “in” the profession because they possess unique skills outside of their regular job titles. They posses knowledge and skill that is unique to enabling the definition.

Third, the definition lays the foundation for sales talent management/people strategies. With such a definition, sales development employees can create learning solutions that fit the unique aspects of a sales culture. At the same time, front-end recruitment strategies and more clearly tie to retention strategies.

Fourth, it helps organization on exemplary performance. By setting a bar with such a definition, organizations don’t have to settle for mediocre sales effectiveness. They can use the definition to help bridge the gap between sales capacity and sales team competency.