Differentiated Selling

Differentiated Selling

One of the most important lessons in sales is differentiation. Differentiation involves being different and unique from the competition. Marketing expert Seth Godin uses the analogy of a purple cow to demonstrate the importance of differentiation. If you are driving in the country and pass enough black and white cows, they eventually become boring (invisible). Each one looks exactly the same. If, however, you pass a purple cow during the same drive, you will notice it because it is different and unique; it becomes visible.

The same analogy applies to sales. The majority of sellers sound the same. They use the same language as the competition; e.g., “solution,” “leading provider,” “innovative,” “cloud,” “best practice,” etc. In fact, the name of the product or service is often the key difference in messaging between companies. As a result, the majority of sellers are ineffective and ignored by customers. Their messages are filtered-out as unwanted noise. The lesson: If you sound like everyone, you sound like no one.

This lesson was driven home for me ten years ago in San Antonio, TX. I closed a software deal at a healthcare company. While packing up, I asked the CIO how many sales calls he received in a day. He said, “15 or more.” He then played the messages that had been left for him during our meeting. Each message sounded the same. Every seller led with their company or product, not the customer. He said, “I NEVER call them back unless I have an immediate need.” To the CIO, these messages were like the black and white cows on the drive, invisible.

Below are three ways to increase sales success by differentiating yourself:

1 – Critical Business Issues – Shift your thinking from leading with your company and product to helping customers solve their critical business issues. Leading with your product is about you, not the customer. What is important is not about what your product does (features), it is how the customer can use it to solve problems, reduce costs and create impact in their business. Communicate how you have helped similar customers (industry, size, etc.) and similar executives (e.g., CIO) achieve meaningful results.

2 – Education-Based Marketing – You will connect with more customers by offering to teach them something of value than by trying to sell them something. By teaching something valuable (e.g., Top 10 Reasons that You Are Overspending on Your Software Licenses), power shifts from the customer to the seller, as the seller becomes a consultant/teacher. Customers want to make informed, intelligent decisions. Help customers do it by educating them while setting the buying criteria in your favor.

3 – Situational Fluency – Credibility comes from understanding the critical business issues related to the customer contact’s position of authority (e.g., CIO, VP of Sales, etc.) and speaking to them in their language. For example, if you are engaging with the company’s CIO, they are concerned with data breaches, security threats, etc.  The concerns are different for the company’s VP of Sales who is focused on forecast accuracy, revenue growth, etc. Always tailor your message to the audience. A message for everyone is a message for no one.

Differentiated selling is about distinguishing yourself from the competition. It is part of creating a competitive advantage. Competition is high and industries are crowded. The best way to avoid becoming invisible or being filtered-out as noise by customers is to differentiate yourself. Remember, if you sound like everyone, you sound like no one. If you look like everyone, you look like no one. A message for everyone is a message for no one. Be different and unique when engaging with customers. Differentiate the way you sell for success.

All contents copyright © 2012, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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