What Makes You Different?5

by Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca


People always want to present themselves as being unique or different, even as they are lined up overnight for the latest iGadget, all adorned in the latest gadget-ware from Fashion Star.  So I am rarely surprised when sales people tell they or their products are different.

I recall meeting with a VP of sales from a software company, the latest killer app, and while he agreed to take the appointment knowing what I do, it seemed his objective was to validate how their product and sale were different than anything I had seen to date.  If I had $10 for every time he said “Tibor, you have to understand we are different, our product is different, and our sale (process) is different”. While I am not qualified to comment on the nature of the software, I had to ask about the sale of their software.

Me: Am I right in thinking that all your reps are all delivering quota?

VP: No, we have a couple that are, some just below, about half haven’t hit goal for the last couple years.

Me: So let me see if I understand Harvey, your people don’t have to prospect, leads and prospect are abundant, normally potential buyers are lined up around the block; it’s just because you knew I was coming this morning that you cleared the sidewalk for me?

VP: No, no, no, we need to prospect like mad, we are always looking for ways to get enough of the right prospects in the funnel, we get a web leads, but they need to prospect more.

Me: But once they get in front of the right prospect, getting the buyers to buy into your value prop, and getting to proposal is just a formality, right?

VP: No, we have to do a lot of information gathering, understand their needs, and explain what we do just to get them to actually appreciate what we can do for them.  It’s a grind and a struggle for some of the AE’s.

Me: but once they articulate the value prop, and the buyer gets it, it just goes straight to signature and close.

VP: No, there is a lot of haggling, back and forth, we lose too many sales at this point.

Me: So Harvey, I may be slow, but I am not sure I see the difference.

Do you?  The one area where Harvey failed to differentiate is in the way they sell.  Like other mere mortals, they have to prospect, engage, execute a discovery to find common ground and gain commitment?

The difference is rarely in the product, the difference is in the way you sell.  If leading products have an overlap of some 80% or more in features, capabilities and output, the only way left to differentiate is in the way you sell and interact with your buyers.  If you are no different in that perspective, than there will be little difference in results moving forward.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto



  1. steven Ingels

    Your article “What makes you different?” is a good reinforcement piece. I tend to play back to myself the “You can’t judge a book by its cover” comment. You know your content is good. How must you execute your presentation? How must you execute the content of your presentation? After that you hope you start moving toward the sound of “cha-ching”.


    • Tibor Shanto


      I think it comes down to reading the book to understand if and what difference there may be.

      Thanks for the input.

  2. Marian Thier

    We develop habits in our brain, body and emotions over a lifetime, so each of us is actually different in who/what we pay attention to. Salespeople benefit from knowing their personal listening habits as well as those of customers. The Listening Golden Rule is “Listen to others as they want to be heard.” It’s amazing how often that’s violated as you tell in your excellent story.

    • Tibor Shanto


      Great input, thank you,

  3. Greg Miller

    I agree that they way you sell makes all the difference, but in the story above, what’s really missing is any form of human connection between the buyer and the seller and it reminded me of an experience I had…

    I recently bought some new clothes at a swanky men’s store in Salt Lake City. I go there for the privilege of paying high prices, but the service is awesome and I really have a connection with the owner – he just gets me. I could buy the exact same or similar clothes at other retailers, or even online, but I go to this particular store simply because he gets me and I value the personal relationship.

    I got a call from the owner saying the stuff I bought was ready. We began the conversation by shooting the breeze a bit and we chatted about my recent ski trip to Alaska. I then said, “I broke my leg skiing yesterday and I’m not very mobile right now, so I won’t be able to pick it up for a few days.” He then said – “you’re trip sounds like it was great” and “see you soon” and he hung up.

    Huh?!?! I was a really shocked that he didn’t ask me how I broke my leg, or how I was feeling. But, then it occurred to me that he wasn’t listening to what I was saying whatsoever and the only thing he had on his mind was the “sale” because I hadn’t paid for the stuff yet. It really made me feel like I didn’t want to shop there anymore because I felt like I was just a “transaction” to him. It really turned me off…And worse, he lost my trust.

    My experience with the retailer was just another good lesson for me about how making a a connection with another person and inspiring others to buy my product is about connecting deeply, at an emotional level – whether that be a buyer – and how really listening and tending to another persons story is so important for establishing and maintaining trust, which is essential to selling anything – clothes, computers, CRM, SFA, cars, shoes, real estate – whatever. Unfortunately, salespeople around the globe – like the owner of the retail store in Salt Lake City – are all trained to “sell, sell, sell” but we aren’t ever taught how to listen. And worse, salespeople everywhere are trained to “diagnose” a prospects problem and provide a “solution”, which doesn’t foster an emotional connection whatsoever and in fact, drives buyers away.

    In an environment where prospects know 60-80% of the information they need about a product before even talking to a salesperson, what will really differentiate you is you, and how well you connect with the buyer on a personal level. So, let’s put aside product/features/functions/benefits/ROI and remember that selling is personal.

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