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Andy Rich | BizDev3.0 | Philadelphia, PA

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Does it bother you when prospects treat your specialized products and services like a commodity?  Are you tired of having to discount deals to win competitive situations?

Salespeople generally don’t like talking about these things because it really hurts our pride – and deep down, it even makes us question the purpose of our existence, professionally speaking. 

For professional salespeople, the question of all questions is:  How do you win against competitors who can provide almost the same thing for almost the same price?

A novice salesperson will say, “Leverage the features and benefits you have.”  But with experience and perspective, they realize that the competition is doing the same thing. 

To be clear:  I’m not discouraging solution-based selling, but solution-based selling means different things to different people.  For example, Sandler trained salespeople do not believe in “pitching solutions.”  Rather, we strive to guide our prospects on a path of self-discovery – a form of solution-based selling that triggers more action and encounters fewer objections.

For now, let’s consider an alternative way to differentiate ourselves – aside from features and benefits.  Let’s consider another way to de-commoditize our products – and truly earn our compensation from winning.

Proving Our Worth Through Our Selling Process

There are several stages in the selling process where a professional trained salesperson can separate themselves from their competition, de-commoditizing their product:

  • Up-Front Agreements:  Executing up-front contracts throughout the sales process includes gaining permission before taking actions, expressing sensitivity to people and situations, sharing concerns proactively, agreeing upon outcomes upfront, and agreeing upon next steps after each stage.  Simply stated, this sends the prospect a message that they trust this salesperson with their business. 
  • Uncovering Real Reasons for Change:  Uncovering real “pain” requires knowledge, skill, patience, and discipline.  When a salesperson is more concerned about whether the prospect A) has the problem, and B) is committed to fixing the problem, and less concerned with closing a deal, it sends the message that the salesperson is more believable, reputable. 
  • Targeted Presentations:  Many salespeople give the same PowerPoint presentation to all of their prospects – sharing many details that the prospect hasn’t expressed any need or interest in – hoping that these additional features and benefits will increase value.  They convince themselves that this is “selling value.”  Conversely, when a salesperson does this, whether consciously or unconsciously, it only tells the prospect that the salesperson is self-promoting and/or didn’t listen to what the prospect wants/needs.  There’ll be plenty of time for the prospect to learn about the full scale of your products and services – after they have become a client, yielding always-important retention. 
  • Mapping the Decision Process:  When many salespeople hear a positive buying signal, they immediately jump to conclusions and skip past this step.  Professionally trained salespeople will collaborate with the prospect to identify every possible step between the verbal agreement and the moment the problem is resolved – which is often long after the formal agreement is made.  Not only does this help the salesperson manage the decision process, but this also showcases the salesperson’s knowledge and experience with the process – increasing the prospect’s faith in their ability to deliver.
  • Post-Selling:  Wait, what is post-selling, you ask?  Exactly.  Wouldn’t it make you a bit nervous if a salesperson excitedly ran out the door immediately after getting a yes?...albeit an extreme example.  Now, imagine a calm, even-keel sales professional who, after hearing a “yes” says, “Okay, now would it make sense to discuss next steps and some potential concerns?”  It’s as though a sales transaction didn’t just take place.  Just two people collaborating together – moving on – without the competition.

Realize that, the vast majority of salespeople with whom you compete do not do these things.

When in a competitive situation, the extent to which you do some or all of these things will determine whether you differentiate yourself – de-commoditizing your products and services.

Salespeople can’t get paid the big bucks, win the award trips, and collect the trophies on the big stage without also taking complete and total ownership for losing competitive situations.

I’ll never forget the most talented Sandler-trained client I’ve ever met, and his product:  Little plastic balls, in bulk.  Yes, plastic.  A total commodity.  Imagine what he could do with a product that tremendously improves efficiency, earns a 10X ROI, or perhaps cures a disease?

With all things being equal – and they often are – how will you differentiate yourself through your sales process?


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