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Andy Rich | BizDev3.0 | Philadelphia, PA

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How effective are you at distinguishing your company from those you are competing against in the marketplace? Here's a quick reality check.

Suppose you were talking to your number one prospect. And suppose that person looked you in the eye and asked you, "Why should I buy from you?"

What would you say?

Would you start talking about your great product, your great service, your great reputation, your great pricing, and/or your great people? Would you start reciting features and benefits, based on your latest spec sheet, so you could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that your stuff really was the very best available?

In our experience, that's typically what happens when salespeople hear such a question (or imagine they have). But follow the scenario out. Suppose it's an hour and a half later, and your number one prospect is now meeting with someone else, someone who sells exactly the same thing that you sell. Your prospect asks that salesperson the very same question. What do you think is going to happen?

Of course. Your competitor is going to start talking about how great the product is, how great the service is, how great the company's reputation is, how great the pricing is, how great the people are. Your competition will start reciting features and benefits based on all the latest marketing materials.

In other words, you and your competitors will be saying basically the same thing, sad but true: Your attempt to distinguish yourself from the competition only serves to make you sound like every other salesperson out there!

With that reality in mind, consider the following possibilities.

Possibility #1: You could stop being "me-focused." Notice that all those instinctive first responses to "Why should I buy from you?" are about your products, your services, your company… and so on. If the goal is to stop sounding like every other salesperson out there (and it should be), you could focus on the prospect instead. You could sound less like a traditional salesperson… and more like a doctor conducting an examination. You could ask intelligent questions, and talk about the kinds of companies you help and the kinds of problems you solve… instead of suggesting that the other person should buy from you.

Possibility #2: You could stop trying hard and sounding desperate. That long list of reasons the prospect should buy from you sounds a little insecure, doesn't it? Yet it is what the majority of salespeople do! Isn't reciting such a list a little bit like a terrible first date, the kind of date where the other person is so intent on impressing you, so intent on "looking good," that they fail to share anything meaningful or authentic… and fail to ask you anything at all about what's happening in your life? Is that really the kind of impression you want to leave?

Possibility #3: You could distinguish yourself and your company… by establishing equal stature with the other person. One great way to do this right away is to say something like, "We do many different things for clients, but right now, I don’t have a full understanding of your business, so I really don’t know whether there are any issues you’re facing that I may be able to help with. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions so we can find out?" The prospect will immediately notice the difference between what you just said and what every other salesperson says… and will agree to your suggestion. You can then ask a focused, relevant question that focuses on the typical business and personal pain your company has a track record of eliminating. For instance: "When we talk to your counterparts at other companies, a lot of them tell us they are sick and tired of inventory shortages that keep them from shipping out orders on time. Does that ring any bells in your world?" Notice two important things about this kind of question. First and foremost, it is carefully structured to connect to an issue that you know is likely to arise in this specific person's world. Second, this question is not focused on features and benefits, but rather on the emotional response to a clearly identified business problem.

Bottom line: The way you sell is what truly distinguishes you from your competitors in the marketplace. By focusing on the other person's issues, establishing a strong peer-to-peer relationship early on, asking good questions, and admitting up front that you don't yet know whether or not it makes sense for the two of you to work together, you can quickly and effectively set yourself and your company apart.

Check out this podcast to learn more about staying ahead of your competition.


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