Unlocking Success in Packaging Sales

The art of understanding customer needs beyond the traditional product-focused sales pitch.

Matt Neuberger

In the competitive landscape of the packaging industry, sales professionals are constantly seeking innovative strategies to enhance their effectiveness and drive more sales. One emerging transformative approach involves a deep understanding of customer needs beyond the traditional product-focused sales pitch. This article draws inspiration from rethinking what the term value proposition means. A compelling case study involving a paint company reveals the profound impact of aligning sales strategies with the customer's broader objectives and challenges.

The Shift from Product to Customer-Centric Sales 

Traditionally, sales efforts in the packaging industry have been heavily centered around the specifications of the products - their "speeds and feeds." This approach, however, often falls short of addressing the deeper needs of customers, particularly those in companies dealing with consumer packaged goods (CPGs) and similar sectors. These customers are looking for solutions that meet their immediate packaging needs and contribute to their overall operational efficiency and success.

A pivotal realization came from a story about a paint manufacturer that understood its products' actual value lay not just in the quality of the paint, but in the labor hours, it saved companies. This insight shifted their sales narrative from merely highlighting product features to demonstrating how their paint could alleviate the frustration of labor management and costs. Something they initially had ignored.  The less they talked to their customers about paint and the more they spoke of labor management, the more they sold. A lot more.

Understanding the "Job to Be Done" 

At the heart of this customer-centric approach is understanding the "job to be done" - a principle emphasizing the importance of grasping what the customer is ultimately trying to achieve and the obstacles they face. By delving into the customer's objectives and the pain points that hinder their progress, sales OEMs can tailor their conversations to address these specific challenges correctly.

This method requires a departure from the conventional sales script focused on product capabilities, urging sales teams to engage in more meaningful conversations with their clients. It's about listening intently, asking the right questions, and demonstrating a genuine interest and knowledge in the customer's success.  Your PowerPoint presentations on your technical specifications will get you in the door. However, they will not sell your equipment.  In fact, they will make you look more like your competitor – yes, YOU could be inserting competition, indecision, and pricing pressure simply by sharing your information without the correct value proposition attached.  How would you know? Look at what’s stuck in your pipeline.  Evaluate the dollar value of annual discounts and concessions provided.

Becoming a Trusted Advisor

When sales professionals master the art of understanding and articulating the customer's job to be done, they transcend the role of mere vendors to become trusted advisors. This elevated status is not granted by proclaiming the superiority of one's products but by showcasing a profound understanding of the customer's needs and presenting tailored solutions

This transition is crucial in a market where purchasers increasingly ask for engineers instead of salespeople. They perceive engineers as problem-solvers who grasp their challenges' technical and operational nuances, unlike traditional sales representatives whose pitches might seem superficial. 

The Price Conversation

A standard indicator that a sales approach is misaligned with customer needs is when discussions quickly pivot to price comparisons with competitors. This scenario often signifies that the sales message has failed to resonate deeper, leaving the customer to default to price as the primary decision criterion.

Conversely, price becomes a secondary consideration when a sales professional successfully communicates how their solutions can address the customer's specific challenges and aspirations. Customers value the insight and personalized guidance they receive, viewing their relationship with the salesperson as a partnership rather than a transaction.

Falling in Love with Solving the Customer's Challenges

The essence of this customer-centric sales philosophy is empathy - taking the time to understand not only the technical specifications of the customer's challenges but also how they affect them personally and professionally. It's about falling in love with solving the customer's problems, not just selling them equipment.

This approach offers a powerful paradigm shift for sales professionals in the packaging industry. By focusing on the customer's broader objectives and becoming a source of valued advice and solutions, sales teams can build deeper relationships, differentiate themselves from competitors, and ultimately achieve tremendous success.

Sales professionals are responsible for bridging the gap between the customer's challenges and how their products or services can make a meaningful difference. This elevates the sales conversation and positions sales professionals as indispensable partners in their customers' success.

Learn more about PMMI’s Certified Technical Sales Professional Program here: oemgo.to/ctsp2023