You read a lot about differentiation in sales, there is almost an obsession with it. But is different better, or just different? Sales as an industry or tribe seems to think that different is better, maybe even believe that it is, or they just need to feel that it is. But as with many things, the reality will vary based on the specifics. Many sellers and marketers want to believe that their buyers want something “different”, but that is not always true, certainly not anywhere near the degree that sellers and marketers want it to be.
The reality is that in any given category, there are not as many differences as people would like to pretend. Take the two leading products and you often find that there is an 85% – 95% over-lap in features and functionality. No disrespect, but is copier A all that different than the competitive product from company B? Sure the chrome on the edges makes yours so much more futuristic, but different, no.
Buyers are not always looking for something different, in fact often buyers are not even looking for a product or solution, they are looking for outcomes. Deliver the outcome they desire, and they are happy. Deliver the most unique and different thing out there, but it fails to deliver outcomes the buyer is looking for, and you’re beat. You can probably list your own set of software and applications that were unique and different, and frustrated their buyer to no end by failing to deliver what they promised, and in the process setting the buyer back by obstructing his/her ability to achieve objectives, outcomes. While it is over dramatizing it, help the buyer achieve or exceed their objectives, and they don’t care if you do it Flintstones style.
Which brings us to where you can really differentiate yourself, your company and by extension your product, and that is how you sell. Rather than wowing them with product and flash, wow them with how you and your company put the buyer’s objectives above all. But consistently high performing sellers take it further, by helping their buyers shape and refine, and often reorienting their expectations and objectives to a better end state and results. Buyers want what works, that may be something different than what they have now, or a more up-to-date iteration, but not necessarily different than other offerings in your category.
The good news about that, is that this is truly a case of the end justifying the means (within legal and ethical bounds, can’t kidnap his daughter to get the sale). I have never seen a buyer say, “I know it got me exactly what I wanted and needed, and has really increased my sales, but it is not different enough.” But we have all had buyers revert back to something simple, similar or the same, because it got them to the objectives and outcomes they set out for, all without the hassle of needing to learn and cope with something different.
Being different in the way you sell starts and ends with ditching the product, the safety net many sellers need. You want to be different, ask them something they have not been asked before that does not relate to product. Ask them questions that cause them to question their ideas, or preconceived direction they thought they should be going in. One of the downside of all the information “available” to buyers as they travel that “575” of the buying journey on their own, is they get exposed to a lot of common thinking, group think reigns supreme. Ideas “shared”, “liked”, and “retweeted”, create a multiplier effect you can either ride or counter. If you can effectively challenge their pre-conceptions the buyers have about how to achieve their objectives, you will be different and add value. If you sell to their pre-conceptions, you will be judged on features and price. You can do this by taking the role of the subject matter expert, but not in a product sense, but a business setting sense. Drill down on why they want not features, but those outcomes. Share with them what other companies facing similar scenarios have done, what’s worked, and what hasn’t, even when they were using your product. Explore the reasons why they think those out outcomes are preferable, if they achieve them, what door that then open, and when that door opens, what next. What if the door does not open what is the alternative? Not only do you want to accentuate the risks they face, including those of their stated preferred path, but highlight viable, alternatives, even when they may not be different.
We help clients follow a simple flow that generally expands the conversation, while allowing you to be different and sell more to clients who will not only be more loyal, but dependent on your expertise. Apply the:
Where do they want to be?
How they measure the situation
Where they are now
Why the GAP?
Establish and re-establish the Gap
Quantify the impact of addressing the Gap and hitting objectives
Quantify the impact of inaction or getting it wrong
Notice there is no product here, that’s different, but there is a number of opportunities to differentiate you and your company in the best way possible, that is how you sell.