By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

sales trainingA client I worked with a few years ago offered monthly rentals on furnished condos as an alternative to living in a hotel room (out of a suitcase) for extended periods for employees having lengthy remote assignments. The company wanted their sales staff to stress that each unit had a fully functional kitchen with pots, pans, silverware and dishes. That seemed straightforward until I helped them realize that features often mean different things to different people based upon their roles and perspectives.

After indentifying the titles of consultants (users), the consultants’ managers, the VP of Human Resources and CFO as people involved in buying decisions or affected by them, the next logical question was to establish if a kitchen was important to each title. It was, but when I asked how it was important to each title the conference room got quiet. Puzzled expressions thinly masked the answer nobody had the courage to blurt out: “Dude, it’s just a kitchen!!”

Being “customer-centric” often requires thinking from buyers’ perspectives. Some organizations develop personas, while others make the mistake of thinking of a single generic buyer. With my help, the group slowly began to understand why a kitchen was important to each different title and how that could translate into value for their offering. Over the next several minutes they thought through the implications of temporary housing with kitchens for each title. The menus looked something like this:

Consultants (Users)

  • Many consultants want to save time. Going out to dinner takes 2 hours or more. In the evening a consultant may prefer to do more work, read, work out, watch TV etc.

  • Some people feel awkward eating alone in restaurants.

  • When eating out people almost invariably eat or drink more than they would at “home.” All things being equal a person living home vs. on the road 5 days a week has a better chance of getting to or maintaining their desired weight.


  • Travel expense budgets have to be managed. If employees want and are willing to make some of their own meals, costs to reimburse them for food rather than meals will be lower.

  • When trying to recruit new hires with all other things being equal, the prospect of staying in a condo vs. a hotel could be the deciding factor for a candidate.

  • Time consuming, late meals over long periods contribute to employee burn out. This can affect their productivity, attitude, morale and even the client’s perception of the consultant. There is a significant cost to the company and drain on a manager’s time when having to hire replacement staff.

VP, Human Resources

  • As stated above, the condo could be a recruiting advantage.

  • Less burnout likely means lower turnover.

  • Lower turnover means less money and time spent on recruiting new hires.

  • Employee satisfaction is likely to be higher for consultants on long-term engagements.


  • Margins would be positively affected if morale and productivity improved while recruiting costs and meal reimbursements were reduced.

Making buyers aware of these potential benefits should enable a seller to facilitate a stronger cost vs. benefit than a competitor in the same space that merely tells every buyer that each unit has a fully functioning kitchen. As you can see for each of the titles above, specific diagnostic questions should be asked to help buyers fully understand the potential benefits and savings.

When trying to brainstorm features and potential benefits, try to think of how different titles would view each feature. If and when competing with another seller offering the same product, you may be able to help the buyer build a stronger cost vs. benefit to justify doing business with you.

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