The #1 complaint from salespeople about their profession and the antidote to it
A common compliant about salespeople is that they are selling commodities, that that is a problem of their company, of their marketing department. Without differentiated marketing and positioning, they are out of the game with no semblance of chance of a sale.
While there is some truth to this, this is also a problem of the lack of creative thinking on the part of the salesperson. They need to be creatively thinking about how they add value to their marketplace, to their customers. What is it beyond the product that the customer is looking for? What is it beyond price the customer seeks? It is never just price. It can be several other things the customer wants that may largely be unspoken.
For example, they may fear looking bad in front of the boss for making the wrong purchase. A guarantee works well to combat this fear. It may be that they seek status or prestige in their purchase. Those savvy salespeople selling luxury items know this to be true. People often buy because of status more than any other reason. They’re looking to look good in front of others. They’re looking to show off. They’re looking to align themselves with a high-end brand and give themselves bragging rights.
There is also the always-unspoken reason of they do not believe in themselves enough to buy. Which is to say they won’t use it, it’ll just sit there on the digital shelf or a hard drive somewhere and never be consumed. This happens a lot. A LOT. It is often couched in terms of “I don’t have time to do this now.” This is code for “I know I wouldn’t complete this.” These people need a lot of cheering-on and determination as to what it is they really want. They need clarity. (BTW: if you can sell someone clarity, coach them to clarity, you have added significant value in their lives.)
They may not buy your stuff because they don’t believe you. They have not seen enough proof to satisfy their requirements to buy. Usually testimonials and success stories of happy customers are enough to get them over this. If not, a free trial / free use of product for a short period of time is the right strategy to overcome them not believing you. Get product into their hands ASAP. Get them using it. Take a customer with you in the form of a success story. Let others tell their story of success on your behalf. This adds credibility and emotion to back your story. Nothing sells like a happy customer.
Further, take your customer with you on your next call. As in, physically with you on your next sales call. This is one that salespeople miss all the time and it is right in front of their face. Why wouldn’t you take your best customer with you? Who adds more credibility to your story? Who wouldn’t be impressed by seeing a happy, transformed customer in front of them, listening to their cool story? The salesperson doesn’t even have to say much of anything — just let the successful customer tell your story for you. This is powerful. Do not underestimate this differentiation through successful storytelling.
Go out and sell for / with your customer. Plan a few calls with them and tell them you want to work with them. Nothing sells, nor builds camaraderie in sales like Team Selling. This concept is becoming more popular with increased exposure and attention. I love Team Selling so long as it is incentivized properly. It is a wonderful way to go to market. It is a wonderful way for a company to present itself to prospects and current customers. And it is a wonderful way for a salesperson to differentiate themselves from others. Go about it with your customer.
Sell with your best customer to their customers.
What does selling with your best customers to their customers do for you? It builds your relationship. It enhances their credibility. It makes their sales call go more smoothly. It impresses the prospect. It introduces you to their customer. It further establishes you within another marketplace. It allows you to get to know what your customer’s customer wants and what his problems are. It allows you to further build your own creativity and differentiation by listening. The most important thing it does is it works to build your relationships, which is the most important thing in sales. Actually, it is the most important thing for ANY profession.
What else can you do to differentiate yourself from others?
Take your customer with you to visit a market that they otherwise wouldn’t think to. There are likely other people or adjacent markets that your customer could be selling to but isn’t. Who are these people? If you know them, take him to them with you. Introduce him to them. A large part of adding differentiated value is introducing people to others whom they might not otherwise know. Leaders initiate relationships. Be a leader and introduce your customer to someone new who may be able to help them. Even if no sale ever transpires, you will have enhanced two lives by bringing two people together who otherwise never would have met. There is potential value there. There is also potential cross-selling opportunities there.
Become the known expert within your marketplace and your customer’s marketplace. Build your industry reputation.
Few things sell like expertise. Learn everything you can about your market and your customer’s market. Add value. Solve problems where you can. Document your problem solving in writing or in video. Get your customer on video, talking about how you solved their toughest problems for them. Use their language. Talk in their vernacular. Post it all to your own blog and to social. Bring your customers into your own Facebook group and keep the industry conversation going there, preferably around your products. Check in and solve problems there, too. Talk about a great way for people to get to learn and help each other out, not to mention brag about your products. This is how you build your industry reputation as an expert problem solver. People will get to know, like and trust you as an expert, as the go-to person they call, text or email with their questions and problems. This is what expert positioning is all about.
You are the differentiation people perceive.
The #1 factor salespeople misperceive in their differentiation is themselves and what they offer. They miss their creative distinction. They don’t think about their expertise. They undermine all the problem solving they have already done for people. They forget about the big sales they’ve already made. They take some of their relationships for granted they’ve developed. They undermine the marketplace impact they have as a point of distinction.
It is natural to do all of this, by the way. We get good. We settle into our routine. It is just another day at the office. Only for our customers and our marketplace, they rely on us as experts. They rely no us to solve problems. They rely on us to be there when things go wrong. They rely on us to provide training. They rely on us to help them sell more. They rely on us — period.
Do not undermine the direct impact you have on your relationships and the people you serve. You often do not know its extent. You are making a significant difference in their lives.