What is the #1 most common sales department complaint?
It is common for Salespeople to complain that they sell commodities. I’m selling what the other guy is selling, and there really isn’t a big difference between the two of us, they’ll say. If they think this, they’re losing. There may not be a big difference between what you sell and what the competition sells. However, it is up to us — to you, the Sales Professional — to create that difference, even to be that difference.
Your creativity is what will differentiate you and your product and your company from the competition. How creative are you?
If two products are perceived as the same or even nearly the same by you or by me or by your customer, we will always choose lowest price. If there isn’t a salesperson there to explain the differences or walk us through the buying process, all that is left is price. When all that’s left is price, it is a problem of positioning, marketing and especially of selling.
If you’re in sales, it is your obligation to discover what makes your product different, what makes your company different, what makes you different. Different salespeople have different sales styles. What’s yours? What is it about you that resonates with people? How do you make people feel?
Why did you even get into sales in the first place? Was it to help people? Was it to make a lot of money? Was it because you found a product you were passionate about and thought it would be a natural fit for you to sell it? What was it initially? Figure that out because it holds one of the keys to why you do what you do. Your underlying why is important to keep at the forefront as a guiding beacon in your career. Why are you doing this?
If you’re a seasoned sales pro, you likely have had lots of sales jobs in your career. Maybe you’ve sold copiers, computers, mobile phones, TVs, high-end audio equipment, appliances, cars, houses, you name it, you may have sold it. What could be said about all the aforementioned? They all could be characterized as commodities. Did you complain that the mobile phones you were selling were commodities? Did you complain that the cars you sold were all the same and were simply commodities to the general public buying them? Were all the houses you sold the same? How about the more expensive — like, 3x to 4x more expensive — pro audio equipment you sold? Any commodities there?
The point is that most things we buy and sell could be characterized as commodities. It is up to us, sales and marketing professionals, to designate them otherwise. We aide in the buying process because our customers may not entirely understand how to buy or how what they’re about to buy benefits them. Does a potential customer new to Tesla understand all the features of the Model S and what they can do for her? Does someone finally switching from PC to a Mac 100% understand the Mac platform and its feature set? Does someone living under a rock understand how Starbucks coffee is different from standard, junk office coffee and will regularly pay $3 for a cup of it without even thinking about it? Good sales and marketing practices make these things so.
Interestingly and a bit sadly, salespeople point their fingers back at their companies and their marketing departments to tell them their products’ points of differentiation. This is a classic case of the salesperson not taking responsibility for the products that they sell. Is it marketing’s job to make sure you sell product? Is it marketing’s job to give you a style of selling? Is it marketing’s job to build solid relationships with your customers? Is it marketing’s job to do most of the salesperson’s job in order for the salesperson to earn a commission?
*** Tune in tomorrow for Part II in this series on Sales Differentiation. ***