May 8, 2023 • Podcast

How do I differentiate in sales?

Paul delves further into the best practice of differentiating your solution and standing out from the competition. 

Show Notes

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. When looking at your solution, what do they see that is different from the competition?

If you’re able to offer something different, then you’re able to charge a premium for that.

Look at your customer’s Critical Buying Path®. Identify how you create unique value at each step along the way.

Being the same is lame. What makes your company unique, your solution unique, and you? What makes you a unique seller?

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How do I differentiate in sales?

(Transcribed from podcast)

A question that continues to come up time and time again: How do I differentiate in sales? “Hey, I’m selling a commodity. I’m selling the same thing as everybody else. How can I be different? How can I stand out? What makes us unique?” I mean, almost every training seminar or keynote presentation or coaching session, salespeople will ask me this question, “How do I differentiate in sales?” The short answer is you have to sell differently if you want to be different, and I’m going to share a few tips and ideas. I mean, really this is such a loaded question that we couldn’t possibly answer it in completion on just one episode. And that’s why we’ve talked about this subject on several occasions. Today, what I’m going to do is I’m going to share three ideas to help you differentiate. So, “How do I differentiate in sales?”

Now before we get into the question and answering it, pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling or attend our June program we have here in St. Louis. This two day training event is going to equip you to sell more profitably, even in that most commoditized market. We’re going to help you sell differently. We’re going to help you compete differently. So check that out. We’ll have a link to our next public seminar. It’s June 27th through the 28th. I think we have four spots still available. And if you’re unable to attend, then, yeah, go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, wherever you get your books, and pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling. Because in Value-Added Selling, we have an entire chapter dedicated to differentiation, and I’m going to share a few insights from the book with you today.

How do I differentiate in sales? Well, you’ve got to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If they’re looking at your solution, and it’s the same as everyone else; if they look at the product and it’s similar, they look at the outcomes generated and it’s similar, naturally, they’re going to focus more on price when they make their buying decision. So our goal is to highlight what makes us different. And if you’re able to offer something different, you can charge a premium for that. They’re going to be willing to invest a little bit more. So we’ve got to highlight what makes us different. And I’m going to share some thoughts and ideas on we can make that happen, and a few examples just from clients over the years.

So, one suggestion here—and this’ll be the first one—look at your customer’s Critical Buying Path® and identify how you sell differently, how you create unique value at each step along the way. Now, to break this down further the Critical Buying Path®, it’s the end-to-end customer experience. It’s the sequence of steps that your customer or prospect will go through when they make a buying decision. Some call it the customer journey or whatever. It’s the Critical Buying Path®. It’s the sequence of steps that your customer or prospect will go through. So, I would sit down and just analyze the end-to-end experience. What does that look like? List out the key steps. And then, at each one of those steps, you have to ask yourself, “How do we create meaningful value? How do we stand out from the competition at this step?”

For example, let’s say in a general Critical Buying Path®, you have three basic phases: the pre-sale phase, the transition/transaction, and then the post-sale usage phase. In the pre-sale phase, one thing your customer or prospect will do is they will test their solution. Or they may put together a budget. What could you do at that particular step to create value? What could you do to make their life easier? Maybe you decide, “Okay. What I can do is I can challenge their mindset. Maybe the customer believes they need this. Well, I can create value and stand out by coming in and delivering meaningful insight that may challenge how the customer thinks, that may disrupt their status quo.” That is a way for you to be different. Again, so tip number one—be different in the way you sell. And you can do that by analyzing the Critical Buying Path®. Identify the steps in your customer’s buying journey, and then how are you different at each step along the way.

Tip number two. Being first is a differentiator. If you were the first in an industry to do something or you created an innovation in that industry, you can wrap that into your sales story, into your messaging. That’s going to help create distance between you and all the other alternatives. You have to know where you were first. I’ll give you an example. One of my clients I was working with recently, their organization was the first in the industry to provide collated staples in the fastening industry. Now, that is a heck of a story when you can tell, “Hey, we’re the first. We did this. We’re the ones who created the technology that most people are copying today.” That gives you a strong position. Because, in marketing terms, when you are the first to do something, people also believe that you will be the best at it. We associate those two ideas. So keep that in mind.

Now, this also includes—. Being first as a differentiator is important, especially in a tough market. As we enter what could be a recession this year, remember, companies like to work with other companies that have been around. It’s interesting. I was recently working with a bank. This is one of my long-term clients, long, long time clients. And obviously, banking is facing some tough times right now. You see what happened with Silicone Valley Bank and the other banks and all that. Well, right now, longevity is important. I mean, when customers are trying to figure out who they want to do business with, they want to work with dependable banks that have not only been through tough times, but that are going to be sustainable through the next tough time. So, longevity is critical, and being the first in a market, that associates with being the best. So keep that in mind.

Finally, let’s talk about how it’s made. It’s amazing how you can differentiate your solution by detailing what goes into the process. What makes your solution unique? I think about this from one of my clients I worked with several, several years ago: Green Valley Floral. They’re out in California. And, speaking of uniqueness, Green Valley Floral is actually the exclusive grower of David Austin Roses in North America. And those are, actually, really neat roses. If you want to research it, check it out. Great for weddings, gifts, all that. Anyway, David Austin Roses. Check it out.

Now, what’s interesting about this company is, again, how it’s made. That can be a differentiator. When I was working with them, I asked, I said, “Hey, how, is your process different? What’s different about your overall solution?” And they said, they had this phrase, and the phrase is seamless post-harvest care. And I said, “Seamless post-harvest care. What does that mean?” Talking with the owner, she told me, she said, “Well, from the moment you harvest a flower, every minute it’s out of water, it shortens the life of the flower. And so she described their process. As soon as the flower is harvested from their facility, they’ve created a system to keep it in water from the moment it’s harvested to its package to its shipped. So, from the time they cut it from the stem to get it into the store, it has constant water, and that helps extend the life of the flower.

If you think about it, flowers are somewhat a commodity-type product. They are a commodity. They can be almost exactly the same. In this case, if you harvest it differently, if you care for it differently, package it differently, how it’s made is a differentiator. And so, you think about that, how about your solution? What’s unique about how your solution is created, customized, tailored to your customer’s or prospect’s needs? Telling that story can also create distance between you and all the other alternatives.

Again, hey, being the same is lame. You’ve got to be different. You’ve got to sell different. Here are three ideas to be different in the way you sell by using the Critical Buying Path®. Look at that Critical Buying Path®. Identify your customer and prospect’s key steps. How do you add value and create distance at each step along the way?

Number two, being first is a differentiator. What are your company’s firsts? What are your “uniques”? And remember, longevity is critical in tough times. And then finally, how is it made? How it’s made is an opportunity to articulate what makes you different. Again, seamless post-harvest care with Green Valley Floral. What is your “seamless post-harvest care”? What does that look like for your company?

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