How do you differentiate yourself in the marketplace? What points of difference do you find relevant when you’re selling? What points of difference does your marketplace find relevant? What are they looking for in what it is you sell? Most people will say lowest price. And while people say that, it isn’t always true. People do not just buy on lowest price all the time. There are other factors. Some people will buy based on differentiation that matters to them. Some people will buy based upon an existing relationship with the manufacturer. Some people will buy based upon social proof. Some people will buy based upon fame. Some people will buy to feel good. Some people will buy to solve a problem. Nearly all people will buy to alleviate pain. If the pain is high enough, we’ll pay nearly any price to alleviate it. See, it isn’t only price all the time. There are other relevant factors.
The selling game has changed when it comes to differentiation. If you don’t have it or don’t know how to show it to your prospect or customer, you aren’t even in the game. Then, you are playing the lowest price contest and that isn’t one you ever want to engage in. Besides, if all people are buying is based upon lowest price, why do companies even need salespeople? They really wouldn’t. We’d all simply be highly paid quote makers. And who wants that?
What if you got to know your customers’ business so well inside and out that you could uncover problems they didn’t even know they had? What if you became not just a solution provider, but also an insight maker? What if you cast light on areas of weakness in their business and then showed them how others like them have solved it using your solution? What if you positioned yourself as an expert problem-solver and explorer and insight creator? How would prospects view you now? As just another salesman? As a simple order-taker? Which would you rather be when selling?
Selling has changed. It is silly to have the salesman bring the customer information that the customer can simply look up herself online. Yet there are many, many salespeople doing exactly that. This is not differentiation. This is redundancy. Bring them something new. Bring them answers. Bring them insight. Open up with deep questions that make them think.
Creativity is one of the chief qualities of today’s salesperson.
Creativity in going to market. Creativity in solving problems. Creativity in expert positioning. Creativity in market research and insight findings. What can you uncover for your customer or prospect that they didn’t know? What gold might be lying in their backyard that you can point them to? What problem might be lurking within their business that you know of that they may be unaware? What can you train them or teach them that would greatly enhance their productivity or profitability? If you don’t know, you need to find out. Your sales and relationships may depend upon it.
Note that there is gold within your own company when it comes to sales insight. The #1 and #2 salespeople in your organization are almost always doing differentiated activities and behaviors that set them apart from other salespeople. It blows me away that sales managers choose not to mine this internal company gold. Like any other profession, some sales folks really are a few notches better than others. Why not take the opportunity to unearth their expertise and insights from the top guys and share it with the rest? Why not allow the guys in the middle of the pack, even the bottom, to learn from the best in the org? If there are two or three behavioral insights they can glean off of working with them for a few days, wouldn’t that be worth it? If you can take a guy from the middle of the pack and help boost him to #2 within six months, wouldn’t that be worth it? If you can boost everyone on your team up two or three notches on the sales chart at minimal cost to you, wouldn’t that be worth it? Sales insights not only exist outside the org, they also exist on the inside.
What really sets the modern sales professional apart today is expertise and teaching what you know. There is great value in teaching today. People are looking for answers everywhere. Online. In person. From friends and family. Even from people they don’t know. Nothing positions you perfectly like being the known expert in your field. Become known to a specific group of people, like your target market. Get to know them and their businesses so well that you can unearth problems and provide insight into them that they never knew existed. Listen to their problems. Be there when balls are dropped. Teach them something new. Give them the guidance, confidence & tools they need to be successful. Study creativity and really work at becoming more creative in what you do. Remember that you are creative if you think you are. These are the activities and behaviors of the truly differentiated, modern sales pro.
Another thing that differentiates the modern sales pro from the rest is curated content. People are overwhelmed in information today. We’re drowning in it. If a professional comes to us with curated content, stuff that they have hand-picked specifically for us, relevant to us, for a certain market segment, we’ll love it. We don’t need more information or data. We need more insight. And the modern sales pro ought to be giving us a lot of insight, the ability to see through the mountains of data and pull keen sightings from within. People don’t really want another book to read. Not really. They want the Cliff’s Notes version they read in high school as a workaround. They want to be pointed in the right direction. They want keen insight from what the data show. They don’t need anyone to point them to more information on product or services. They want to know the why behind the product or service. They want to know where in their business they would use this product or service. They want to see you uncover problems in their business they didn’t know they had. They want answers.