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It’s easy to find marketing and sales advice for commodity products. But what about small to mid-sized businesses selling high dollar products? Where do they get advice? How do you effectively train your sales people? High dollar sales are different.

I’ve spent decades engineering, designing, marketing, and selling high dollar products selling for $10,000 to over $1 million. I can tell you that I had to do a lot of digging, and interpolating to find marketing and sales advice that I could use. I read marketing and sales books focused on the promotion of low dollar products and then had to pull out the content relevant to high dollar sales.

I found Neal Rackham’s famous SPIN Selling book, and was thrilled to find it was written about how to sell high dollar products. Finally – someone was talking to me and helping me with my problems. Someone had realized there was a difference.
Unfortunately, there still aren’t many books out there focused on high dollar marketing and sales.

Differences: Let me count the ways

To help fill this gap, here are nine significant ways that marketing and selling high dollar products and services is different.

1. It’s more complex
Customer problems are complex so the solutions you provide must be complex as well. A $50,000 heating and cooling system for a new facility requires significant involvement from estimators and engineers, installers and inspectors. The heating system design has to take into account the size of the rooms, the climate, the walls facing south and west, the building insulation level, the wall construction, the running of utilities, and the money available to buy versus the money ongoing available to run the equipment. That’s much different from one-click ordering on Amazon.

Your marketing team must understand the customer needs, the product offerings, and the sales cycle well to effectively market your solutions. Sales training must be extensive to prepare your reps to add real value to technical conversations with potential customers. High dollar sales are rarely impulse buys. You have to demonstrate true benefits instead of appealing to emotions.

2. Requires selling to a team, not a person
Companies that purchase complex, high dollar products usually set up buying teams comprised of people with different areas of expertise including a purchasing agent, a technical expert, and a service expert.

You’ll likely have to run the signature signing gauntlet meaning at least two people will be involved in the purchase. The higher the price, the more signoffs are required. Over $500 requires a supervisor’s signature. For $2,000 or more, add a manager. Get to the $10,000 level and you’ll likely need an executive signoff. Over $50,000 and you’ll find yourself in the office of the CEO, CFO or owner.

Your marketing team must be equipped to market to individuals holding many different titles in an organization. The sales team must be capable of successfully interacting with people from entry level purchasing assistants to the man or woman in the corner office.

3. Has different buyer behavior drivers
Strong factors often impact the behavior of buyers of high dollar items. Two of the most powerful are fear and risk. Purchasing a high dollar item can put their jobs at risk so they are naturally fearful as they go through the process.

They are also driven by the hope of a positive future. You may be presenting them with the solution of a problem they have been struggling to solve so they may be motivated by hope and relief. Unlike commodity sales situations, however, these emotions rarely spark a spontaneous purchase. High dollar sales almost always require some level of diligence on the part of the buyer. They’re going to scrutinize their options much more than in a low dollar sale.

Your marketing content and your sales training must address these emotional triggers.

4. Requires targeted marketing strategies
To simplify the complexity of a high dollar sale, you must talk to the prospects in their language. That’s the first step in convincing them you understand their issues and can help them solve their problems.

Your marketing team must have a deep understanding of customer needs and market dynamics, and be able to demonstrate how your solution offering fits in. Your lead generation campaigns must be relevant to the audience and your lead nurturing campaigns must be designed to match each buyer at every stage of the buyer journey.

5. Establishing credibility is key
When I purchase a low dollar commodity item, I usually do it for convenience. It’s something I need or want, it’s reasonably priced and I make the buy.

However, as the price point increases I become more critical. It’s no longer a matter of convenience alone. I need to believe in the product or company before I buy. The same is true in a B2B setting.

Your marketing and sales teams must be skilled at gaining enough credibility to obtain a lead, move the leads through your funnel, and ultimately receive the order.

6. Involves long sales cycles
It is not unusual in high dollar sales for it to take months, and sometimes years, to close a deal. The longer sales cycle significantly changes your lead nurturing programs and your face to face selling strategies.

Your marketing team needs to create highly relevant content that keeps the potential customer engaged. Too frequent interaction and the contact will feel bombarded and harassed (never a good thing). Too infrequent and your contact may forget you (a worse thing). Your sales team should focus as much on advancing the selling process as it does on closing orders. The hard close fails in high dollar sales.

7. Has fewer successes
You will always close fewer individual deals per year in high dollar sales than you would selling a commodity. This makes every order and every customer that much more important.

Your marketing team must be designed to accurately qualify leads, move them through the marketing funnel, and hand to the sales team only those leads that are truly sales ready. Your sales reps must have the patience and persistence to advance the slow burning projects while giving adequate attention to the few buyers on their plate. Make sure you leverage your technology (CRM, Marketing Automation) to streamline your processes and keep your sales team productive.

8. Provides more opportunities to earn loyalty
With high dollar sales, there are often many more ways to satisfy a customer than just shipping on time and offering a generous return policy. High dollar sales often involve an intense aftermarket component as the product is commissioned and operated. A customer inquiring about a re-purchase is many times more likely to buy than a new inquiry from a non-customer. Loyal customers buy more per order, drain less resources, recommend you to others, and raise the morale of your staff.

Obtaining loyalty should be an integral part of your strategy and culture. Your service team must drive the companywide effort to obtain customer loyalty.

9. Demands highly developed sales skills
In high dollar sales, the complexity of the problems and solutions, the reward for winning, and the significant amount of wasted effort when losing means the sales team must be highly skilled. People are born with talent, but skill can be learned.

That’s why you need to invest heavily in training your sales staff. Hiring someone and throwing them out on the street is a recipe for disaster. Effective sales people have a deep understanding of the customers’ business, the solution they are offering, and the competition working to win the order away from them. Company selling high dollar products with a revolving door in their sales department will quite simply fail. Make sure you are devoted to developing and retaining an effective sales team.

Marketing and selling of high dollar products isn’t inherently more difficult than it is for low dollar products. But it is important to recognize there is a difference, and the advice marketing and sales experts give should reflect the market environment.

I developed this blog series especially for those of you marketing and selling high dollar products. It will be focused on addressing common issues we face every day. I’ll cover everything from identifying your best end markets, leveraging voice of the customer research, running the ideal sales training meeting, and raising company profitability. If you have thoughts or ideas on other areas you’d like me to cover, please pass them along to me.

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Chip Burnham is author of MarketMD™ Your Manufacturing Business, co-founder of Fairmont Concepts, and experienced at marketing, selling, servicing, and developing high dollar products for small to mid-sized companies.

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