One of our clients had a particular dilemma, described here by one of the sales team:
“Our clients think our products are just a commodity, and so mainly focus on the price against our competition. We know that our products are different, have differential qualities and will be better for our prospects than our competition’s will. What can we do about this?”
Interesting question. Remember, the perception of your products and services are in the eyes of the customer. If they think you’re cheap, then you’re cheap. If they think you’re lousy, then you’re lousy. No amount of marketing or brochure blurb will influence that if it’s ingrained.
What should you do? Here’s a checklist to ensure your customers see your products as different in many ways.
1) Be absolutely honest and truthful about your products’ appeal to the marketplace. Are they really different, to everyone you meet? Or do they just offer value to specific customers with specific needs? You could have a niche product. But who does it appeal to?
If you really think your products are special, then…
2) Do you have a great story about your offerings that make the value and benefits come alive? If so, how do you prove it to the customer? Have you got testimonials and references of the results others have got? Specify what your product will do for this actual customer, based on what other similar companies have experienced.
3) Have you created enough opportunities with the decision-makers to prove how valuable your offer would be to their business? Remember, the decision-makers may not be the end-users, and they might not be able to perceive the real differences between yours and the competitive offerings.
4) Have you become so focused on price differentials that the real value of your products has been clouded over? You must be capable of really detailing the story of what your products will do, for THIS specific customer.
5) Think seriously about the results you’re promising from your products. Are they of real benefit to the customer? For instance, one photocopying supplier we worked with tried to sell the value of their machines by saying it saved three seconds of time in printing 100 copies over the prospect’s current machine. The prospect couldn’t see the real value in that. It simply didn’t justify the changes they would have had to go through in order to get our client on their supplier list. So, identify what is of real value to the prospect and help them see what it would do for them in terms that are valuable to them.
By being aware that customers will focus on price if there’s nothing else to differentiate you, you are able to determine what could be important enough to this specific customer to warrant you referring to them.
MTD Sales Training
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Our buyers have changed over the past few years. Those who were around in the early part of this century have either been replaced, moved on or changed the way they buy.
Selling in the same way as we always have means we miss out on opportunities, because the buyer who bought from us with that style doesn’t exist any more.
Today’s buyers are more sales savvy, have different needs and offer more challenges than ever before. What can we do to meet these new challenges?
I believe there are three key skills you can develop that will increase your chances of gaining more business:
Become more collaborative and consultative in your role
Become more proactive with your best customers
Widen the difference between you and your competition
Let’s take these in order:
Becoming more collaborative and consultative means identifying how you can build and maintain a relationship with your buyers, partnering with their organisations. Collaboration means working with people inside and outside your company to create close working relationships with people who can help their businesses thrive in the current economic climate.
By collaborating you will not only learn about the products your customers sell, but also be able to use that expertise to better serve your customer as a true subject matter expert, not just a knowledgeable sales person.
You need to understand and demonstrate the real impact you and your product will have on the customer and their objectives.
By becoming a collaborative resource your customer will not only see more value in your meetings, but begin to rely on you as a source of valuable knowledge about the industry and the processes they need to deal with day to day. This allows you to move the discussion from the product or service and onto areas that will make a real difference to the way your customer markets their services to their customers.
Get into your buyer’s world, and understand their market through their eyes. This gets you more engaged with the customer, offering more than just the products and services in your portfolio
Secondly, you need to become more proactive. We have often talked about why buyers buy…to relieve the pain of the current situation or grow towards an opportunity in the future. Without that movement, most buyers will stick with what they currently have, without realising the opportunities they are missing, or are willing to tolerate what they know is inefficient. Some prospects have stopped looking because they believe there is no alternative, or no affordable alternative.
As a proactive seller you need to understand and focus on the fact there is a viable cost effective alternative with a real return on the investment they have to make. You need to focus on the cause, not the symptom.
This helps you develop a solution that the prospect maybe had not considered before, offering a direction and a way out that will assist their business to move in a direction that they hadn’t seen or though of before. This is where the true partnership starts to develop and the prospect becomes a customer or client that comes to rely on you as a solution to their problems.
Next we look at widening the difference between you and your competition. In my ‘Sales Person’s Crisis’ Book (you can download your free copy below), I talk about how much more knowledgable customers have become these days, and how important it is that you take your products away from being classed as a commodity. Many buyers we talk to find it difficult to differentiate all the services and products that are available to them.
So what can you do?
You can start by building value in the customer’s eyes before you start to sell. This may well involve taking the product out of the equation and differentiating by what you as the sales consultant can offer that the customer would miss without you. This means your approach and process become the differentiators. What value does the customer get by dealing purely with you?
How much do you know about the customer’s business? Their industry? Their products? Their customers? Their competitors?
How much more can you help them with than their current suppliers can, so they come to see you as a business partner rather than just a salesperson, like all the others?
If you can consider yourself as being collaborative, consultative and proactive, there will be every reason for your client to see you as a business partner of real value to them, now and in the future.
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MTD Sales Training
Many salespeople tell us that the way they differentiate themselves from their competition is by adding value to their products, in order for the customer to see why they are charging the price they are.
Nothing wrong with this per-se. It adds meaning to why they are positioned where they are, right? The customer can see exactly what they are getting for their money, and by adding value, the customer can make the connection between the product and the savings he will make.
This is good, but could it be better?
How many times do you ‘hold something back’ so you can surprise the prospect with that little extra to encourage them to buy? We sometimes cause ourselves problems here, because the prospect may be wondering what else might you be holding back, and have they really got everything they could from you?
Something to try might be to add value up front.
What I mean by this is showing how much you care, showing the customer what they will gain by working in partnership with you. Your ‘value-add’ ideas may include:
• Free ideas and newsletter from your website
• Free consultations with a specialist department before the prospect makes a decision
• Videos and DVDs of how others have benefited from using your product
• Testimonials from others about you
• Special terms and conditions
• Free samples
• Free trials of the product before they commit
By offering extra value before they have to commit to a decision, it makes the prospect feel they would be missing out if they didn’t go with you. Then you don’t have justify a higher price than your competition by adding on the extras; they have seen the value of your offering before you even start talking about price.
The UK’s #1 Authority On Modern Day Selling
MTD Sales Training