Paul gives you some tips and ideas when it comes to setting your solution apart.
When your product is the same as your competitor’s, you can’t just rely on the product. The product is just one element of the total package you are selling.
Remind the customer that the value you and your company provide are inseparable parts of your overall solution.
Ask your best customers why they buy from you, beyond products.
To sell a differentiated solution, you must sell differently.
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How do I differentiate my total solution?
(Transcribed from podcast)
Today, we’re going to talk about differentiation. And this came from an actual conversation I had with a salesperson just the other day. This seller was actually selling in an industry that was heavily commoditized—heavily commoditized meaning, they’re selling a lot of the same product as everyone else. And he said, “Paul, how do we differentiate in this type of scenario?” So that’s what we’re going to focus on today is, “How do we differentiate our total solution?” Now this is a common question. Man, there’s a lot of depth we could go into here. We’re going to give you kind of a basic overview and give you a couple tips and ideas.
But before we do that, got to give a quick shout-out to Andrea over at The Creative Impostor Studios. Podcasting is such a great way to connect with your audience, build your brand up. It’s a new avenue that many companies are starting to embrace. In fact, a lot of my clients, they create podcasts within their own company. So, if you’re listening to this and you’ve ever been just curious about how to start a podcast, reach out to Andrea and her team. They are there to help you and support you: get it started, to keep it going, and to keep it growing as well. So, anyway, reach out to Andrea and her team. They do an absolutely wonderful job over at The Creative Impostor Studios. We’re going to have a link over to our website on this episode’s webpage.
Also, as I mentioned on a previous episode, Selling Through Tough Times is going to launch in September. In fact, I’ve got some really exciting things we’re going to do leading up to the launch of the book. But the good news is, you don’t have to wait until September 28th to order your copy. You can order your copy today. You’re going to be the first on the list to get the book. Pick it up on Amazon or wherever you get your books. It’s available for pre-order through Barnes & Noble as well. So, pick up your copy. We’re going to have all the links to that book, whether it’s to Barnes & Noble’s website or whether it’s to Amazon. So you can pre-order that copy today.
All right. Let’s get back to the show. How do you differentiate your total solution? There’s a few things you need to keep in mind. Yes. When you are selling a product that is similar to everyone, yes, you’re going to face some challenges. If the product is exactly the same, which I know many of my listeners are experiencing in that, you can’t just rely on the product.
So, here’s the first tip. Remember that when you are trying to differentiate your overall solution, remember that the product is just one element, one dimension of the total package that you are selling. You are selling a bundled package, which means you’re not just selling the product; you’re not just selling a service. You’re also selling your company, and you’re also selling the value of you, the salesperson. We call that the three dimensions of value. This is a common principle within Value-Added Selling that I mentioned on previous episodes. The product that you do sell, according to our research, does represent a significant amount of value, 57 percent in fact. But that means that 43 percent of the value is derived from other areas, mainly the company, and you, as the salesperson.
So, when you think about that, ask yourself, “Okay. What’s unique about our company? Why is it that customers work with us versus working with other companies?” Remember, customers have choices. If you’re selling commoditized products, they can buy it from any number of resources. What is it about your company that keeps bringing them back? And then, thinking about you, as the salesperson. You represent 25 percent of the value. So, if you’re not explaining to the customer what makes you unique or different, you’re missing out on 25 percent of the reason why they buy.
I remember working with a group of salespeople. This is a—oh, gosh—this was probably about two-and-a-half months ago. This is at a live event, actually, which was great. It’s good to be back at those live events. And the salesperson has a 30-year history of working with the products and applications that he is now selling to. Think about it. They’re selling and supplying in the refinery—well, in the steel refinery industry. And so, this salesperson has 30 years of experience working in the facilities that he is now selling to. That gives him unique difference when he goes in there. It’s no longer about, you know, showcasing a product or service, “Hey, here’s what it does.” This guy’s going in there and saying, “You know what? I’ve used this type of product for 30 years. Here’s what I’ve noticed. Here’s how you can get the most value. Here’s how you guys can improve efficiencies around here.” This salesperson is selling more as a consultant than he is as a salesperson, because he’s providing ideas and insight based on his 30 years of experience.
Now when he’s competing against another salesperson that maybe has 5 or 10 years experience, but never even worked in the facility, he has a unique advantage. So again, the key here is being able to sell to the personal value that you bring—being able to differentiate that personal value—because remember, what you’re selling is not just a product.
And that’s the second point we’re going to make here. And this is one you really have to get your head around. All of your value-added extras are like ingredients in a cake. Think about this for a moment. You get your cake, you know, let’s say you got the milk, the sugar, the flour, all that good stuff. All of those ingredients are like value-added extras. And once you mix up all those value-added extras, all those ingredients, you put the cake in the oven. You bake it. It comes out. You can no longer separate those value-added extras or the ingredients from the cake. It’s baked in. It’s part of it.
Continuing with that previous example, when a customer is buying a commoditized product from you, the salesperson, they’re not only buying the product, but they’re buying into your 30 years of experience that go along with it. It’s not like you can just take it out. It’s already baked into the solution.
And the key is reminding our customers of that. And, in fact, when your customers tell you, “Hey, I can buy this same thing up the road,” you can say, “You know what? The products are very similar,” (You know, go ahead and acknowledge the general similarities between the two products.) But what you’ve got to say is, “You’ve got to remember what comes with that price. It’s not just the product you’re buying. You’re buying into all the value that our company brings. You’re buying into my 30 years of experience in the industry. You’re buying into my expertise, my engineering capabilities, my this, my that.” You need to remind them of all the value that comes along with it. And most importantly, remind them that what you are providing is an inseparable part of your overall solution. That’s the key. It’s inseparable. They can’t just take it out [be]cause they don’t want to pay for your value. No, it is baked in there already.
You know, a third tip here. When you’re trying to figure out how to sell your differences—what makes you unique—go to your best customers. I’m amazed at how often salespeople neglect to talk to their best customers to uncover what makes them unique or different. Ask your best customers why did they buy from you versus the competition. Talk to multiple levels of decision makers within the same organization. The key is, you want to ask that question throughout the organization, at multiple levels, to give you a 360 degree view of the value that you bring to the table.
Customers have a knack for knowing why they want to buy from you. Customers have a knack of also sharing with you what makes your company unique that maybe you forgot about. Maybe you took for granted. Maybe you just don’t understand it because you’re around it all the time. Customers give you that opportunity. So, the next time you’re with your best customers, take your top—I don’t know, 4 or 5, 6, 7, best customers, top 10 even, and just ask them, “Why do you buy from us versus the competition?” and take the product side out of it. And if they start mentioning, “Oh, you’ve got great quality products and this and that.” Say, “You know, beyond just the products, why else do you work with us?” Get them beyond the most commoditized part of your solution. Instead, focus on the company. Get some information about your people. And if you feel up to it, ask them about the personal value that you bring as a salesperson. And ask them, “Hey, is there anything that I could do better or I could improve on?” Or “Is there anything that you feel brings value that I provide?” Get them to talk about the personal value that you bring, and that then tells you what makes your solution unique or different.
Another thing we’re going to focus on—this is the fourth and final idea. So again, the first one—remember, you’re selling more than just products. Number two—your value added is an inseparable part of your solution. Number three—ask your customers why they work with you, your company, and you as a salesperson.
And the fourth piece—if you want to sell a differentiated solution, you’ve got to sell in a different way. Your sales approach is another avenue to differentiate your total solution. Be different in the way you follow up. And that means follow up impeccably with that customer. Differentiate your total solution by building in more perceived value early on in the sales process. Differentiate your total solution by creating a better overall experience. Deliver more insight early in the process.
In fact, that’s one piece of data that I’ll share with you. This is taken from Value-Added Selling when we did a study for our most recent edition that’s out. We asked a group of decision makers, “Why would you choose one salesperson over another?” And relationship with the salesperson ranked higher than price. Another thing we asked was, “How can salespeople create more value throughout the experience?” And the number-one response was, deliver more meaningful insight early in the decision-making process. That’s how you can differentiate your approach. You can take some of the same insights and ideas that any salesperson has access to, but you can share those with the customer early on in their decision-making process. If you want to create a different solution, you’ve got to sell in a different way. And that begins with your process—how you approach it.
Be different in the questions that you ask. You know, one of the greatest ways to differentiate yourself and your process as a salesperson is to ask better questions. If you’re sitting down with a customer—you’re analyzing their needs, you’re trying to discover what’s important to them—ask them a question that really stretches their mind, that forces them to think. And if they tell you, “Wow, nobody’s ever asked me that before,” that’s a good sign. Give yourself a pat on the back. Make a note of that question, because if they’ve never been asked that question before, many of your other customers haven’t either. That’s another way you can differentiate yourself.
Make it a big day.