The first and most important thing to be able to differentiate is you. It answers the question: “What makes you different, and why should spend time with or buy from you?”
There were two comments on this week’s post 2 Ways to Create Influence and Persuade Others that speak to this point. The first comment was from Sales Training Tom at Huthwaite, who said there is “a joke among sales guys: Companies with great products have great salespeople. Companies with low quality products have low quality salespeople.” This comment was followed by a comment from Jonathon at Arctickiwi who asks: “Does this mean sales people determine the quality of the products, or the quality of the products determines the sales people?”
I have to admit that I am unfamiliar with the joke, but I take the point to mean that great salespeople are part of what makes their product great, and that lower caliber salespeople are part of what make their offering not-so-great, regardless of the product.
Most of us no longer sell simple products; we have evolved and are now selling something more complex like solutions or, something beyond that, measurable business results and acceleration. This means that you are a bigger part of the sale than at any time before; your clients are, more than ever, buying you.
The first way to differentiate yourself in sales it to focus on improving all of the foundational attributes that make up success and professionalism in business and in sales. These attributes are what make valuable to your company and your clients. They are the foundation upon which you build your capacity to create massive value for others.
Make a list are the attributes that you possess that differentiate you from other salespeople in your field? Make another list of the attributes that you could develop that would improve your ability to differentiate yourself? Build the action plan to develop those attributes and skills.
We’ll have more on differentiating you below.
2. Look Past Product and Service to Meaning and Values
Even in an age of commoditization and incredible access to information, too many sales organizations still believe that they need to differentiate their product or service on features and benefits. The challenge with defining the differences on features and benefits is that they are so easily (and quickly) copied, eliminating differentiation.
What is harder to replicate is meaning and values. This is the difference between selling the “what and how” and selling the “why.”
Why does your company do what it does to serve it customers? What does your company mean to the marketplace? What is your company’s worldview? Why are your values and meaning better than those of your competitors?
Meaning and values are much harder to copy, and they usually come with a compelling story that serves to illustrate how those values came into being and how they create value for your clients. The stories, the meaning, and the values are unique to you and your company.
Your company’s meaning, your company’s values, and your company’s stories and experiences are something that is unique. They separate you from all others with whom you compete. They allow you to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and to be different in a way that separates you from everyone else. Ultimately, these are the differences that make the difference.
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Make a list of these values and meanings. Write down how these values and meanings give life to your product or services? What are the stories that prove how these values and meanings make the difference in choosing your company and in choosing someone else.
3. Tying it All Together
Extend the meaning and values exercise above to who you are as a salesperson. What are your values? What do you stand for? What is your brand? What are your stories and what experiences have provided you with your unique worldview? How does that differentiate you from your many competitors? How does it create value for your customers? How does it answer the question: “Why should I buy from you?”
Differentiation is your foundational attributes + your personal values, meaning and stories + the ability to add meaning and values to what you sell.
Success in sales is dependent upon your ability to differentiate your product or service in a crowded field. More important still is your ability to differentiate yourself as a salesperson. Work on these three ideas to improve your ability to differentiate!
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