If you’re in sales, you know that a crowd favourite is differentiation. Companies, marketing folks, sales people all want to differentiate, which is not an easy thing in a climate where differences are few and subtle. Often the only real difference is the sale itself, since products tend to be often all but identical. The “sale” has two main components that allow for differentiation, the individual involved, and how they execute.
The first is important, but not as much as people make it out to be, you’d have to really go out of your way to play-off someone to the point where they won’t buy your product. As rare as that may (should) be, when it does happen, the buyer can usually procure the product through other means, depriving the “bad seller” of both the satisfaction and the commission. This leaves execution as the key differentiator.
Yet most sales people seem to almost go out of their way not to be different, either in the way they do things or don’t do things. They spend time and effort to meet a social norm and construct not of their own making or choosing, all in an effort to fit in and not be different from the herd perusing the same prospect. I have written in the past about sales people constantly telling me “oh, I couldn’t do that.” Or the more inclusive “you can’t do that.” When I point out that have checked with the federal, provincial/state authorities, and municipal lawmakers, and there is no law preventing them from in fact carrying out the act in question, they still tell me they can’t do it, and why, it is different. Isn’t that what you want to be when the person you’re calling has heard it 6,000 time before.
Rather than taking the opportunity to be a breath of fresh air, they labour at being “more of the same”, but a little shinier. Jumping on every bandwagon riding through town all in an effort not to be different.
Take voice mail as an example. One of the reasons many will give for avoiding telephone prospecting is the pervasiveness of voice mail. I could see this being an issue in 1987, but not since. The logical thing would be to develop a method for getting targets to call you back, not to avoid something because it is there. Add caller ID to the mix and it is clear that you need to do something different than your competitors, and different than what the target is expecting from a sales person.
For years I have been sharing a method for leaving voice mails that get returned, I generally average 40% – 50% of messages I leave being returned within 72 hours. Just this past Tuesday I left five messages, got responses by end of the day, and one appointment, and a follow up call in April; I hear sales is not a numbers game, but even then, that’s good no? Those who try it, execute it the way it is presented regularly improve their return call ratio, and increase appointments and pipeline.
The problem is that the methods I use is different, not comfortable, at first, then when you get sales it all changes. The great thing is that when prospects call back, I have already differentiated, and can continue to be different, and deliver an experience for the buyer that is different, and better than what they have been conditioned to expect from those who talk, but don’t act differentiation. The method has been challenged, ridiculed, mocked and dismissed by a whole bunch of people who have not tried the method, a behaviour not that different than the rest of the 80% they are claiming to be differentiated from. It is always the same, a few years ago someone wanting to feel good about their insecurity shared my method in a LinkedIn group, there was a rush of condemnation. But then a few days later, a bunch of people who tried it in the real world, chime in about the success they had connecting with people they have been trying to reach for some time. Being different takes work, and requires you to step away from the comfort of the crowd.