In the past I had written about the fact that your sales process and the way you or your team execute that process is most likely the last real way of differentiating yourself from your competition. I think by now we can all agree that product is rarely the deciding factor; and when it is, it is usually driven by price, regardless of what marketing is smoking. With all due respect and deference to product designers, engineers, marketing and branding folks, when you look at it in the cold light of day, there is not that much difference in the top two products in most categories. What many will tout as being different, is more subjective than data or fact based. With 85% – 90% feature overlap, one may be able to spin the benefits a bit, but if products could sell themselves, I’d be writing a different blog. As with beauty or value (or some tell me), difference is often in the eye of the beholder.
So what can you do to sound or be different when selling. There is a whole bunch of things, but I think the easiest lies in the questions you ask. And among the many questions you can and should ask, there is one I like because it is easy to answer, sets you apart from many, you will learn a whole bunch of useful things, and despite its high octane, it has no risk, all upside.
What’s the question you ask? (Sorry I just had to) Here it is:
“What is the one thing you have always wanted from a supplier like me (us), but have never had anyone do, or deliver?
Many I present this question to are first taken aback. They say, “what if they come up with something we can’t do or deliver?” There is only one answer to that: who cares?
By definition they have not gotten this from anyone, just look at the question. The fact that you can’t do it, does not put you in a bad light. Let’s go to extremes, say they want to go to Mars, first class with kosher meals, no one can do that, so there is no downside.
In a more conventional setting, say they come up with something you can’t do, you don’t look any worse than the others, but there is upside. You can explore why they are looking for that specific thing. That will give you great insight about the buyer, and more importantly their objectives. In most cases you get bonus points for trying.
By understanding what they are trying to achieve, you may be able to offer an alternative means of achieving the very thing, but in a different way. Most buyers are focused on achieving their objectives, few will get hung up on the means, if you get them there, you get the glory.
What you’ll also find is that at times you can in fact deliver what they respond with, or something so close, it will satisfy the requirement. In this case asking the question has nothing but upside, you win the deal, the client, and referrals to follow. Those referrals are likely to focus more on how you sold them and met their expectations than product.
There is no safer question in sales. All upside, no downside. Try it, it’s a gas.