Friday I posted a piece on taking control of your selling, in which I mentioned a VP of sales who felt his circumstance was “different”. I get that a lot, and I am sure most sellers hear that all the time; companies or individuals who feel they are different, but with all due deference they most often are not. For that fact neither you or I are that different when looked at specifically from a sales standpoint, what you might sell can be a little different from the alternatives, but studies have shown that most products in the market place share many of the same features and attributes.
As a result, often the only difference is the way sales people sell not the product itself, it is the seller that can best engage, spark the imagination and understanding of the buyer that will truly differentiate the experience and the outcome, not the product itself. I understand that in the heat of battle it feels like you are experiencing things different from other sellers, but at the core, sorry, not that different. Claiming to be different, especially when you are not achieving the desired results, is just one card in a deck of excuses.
There are however way you can use this sense of “being different” to your advantage, primarily by challenging it. The most practical thing you can do is challenge their sense of being different. Yes challenge it, may seem odd, but it is your edge. As long as the buyer thinks that they are different and unique, they will be stuck in that mode and rarely move to buying. Thinking they are unique drives them to look for unique solutions; solutions that either have to be “customised”, which usually carries a prohibitive cost point, or solutions that may not exist.
By challenging their perception of being unique, you can focus on those points that lead the buyer to believe that they are that different. In other words, your offering may meet 90% of the buyers “real” requirements, but if you don’t break it down to that, than you will be allowing the 10% to be the entire thing. Once you have narrowed it down to the 10%, you can deal with it in specific terms, alternatives, plugins, professional services, all which should address the buyers need, and drive revenue for your company.
More importantly, the mere fact that you are willing to (professionally) challenge the notion of “being different” will make you seem different from the other vendors, who will play the game of chasing the unattainable, especially if they have not isolated the difference, and placed context around it. One way to this consistently is to use the GAP Selling model. If you play into their notion of being different, you will suffer the same fate as those looking to satisfy a concept rather than bringing it in to real terms that can be defined, addressed, eliminated.
Most time the process of challenging the “difference” will set you apart, and help the buyer see where they are miss-focusing time and energy. I remember meeting with a sales VP a few years back, nice guy, I still do some work for him. When we first met he was crusty and challenging, telling me in a very commanding way that I needed to understand that they were different; every time I tried to explore an area of their sale, he kept coming bank “yes Tibor, but you see we are different”. I clearly needed to challenge this:
TS: OK John, I want to better understand how you are different than the hundreds of companies I have worked with. Let me get this straight, normally you have prospects lined up out the door, round the block, but because I was coming today you cleared the lot, right?
John: No no, my people have to go out find leads and prospect, in fact, I wish they would do more; but they work trade shows, networking, cold calls. It’s not easy either, they have to work at it and there is always room to improve.
TS: OK, but once they engage with prospect, there is not much selling, no competition, buyers just want to know where to sign.
John: No man, we have to prove our value especially against key competitors, offer up the right solution, and help them sell it internally.
TS: OK, but once you accomplish that, they just sign, no negotiations, bargaining, it is straight to the dotted line?
John: I wish, we go back and forth, I am never sure if it is my team or the customers, but we have even built a cushion in to the price to be able to have a bit of give and wiggle.
TS: So where are you different, because you have just described 90% of my clients?
It was after this point that the discussion really got going, where we were able to deal with some of the things that did make aspects of what they do unique. Had I allowed myself to go down the “wow is me, we are different” road, there would have been no sale, or a much longer sale cycle.
So when you hear they are different, smile and ask WHY?
What’s in Your Pipeline?