Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson’s movie Get Rich or Die Try’n may not have been an Oscar worthy film, but his message of determination was. The corporate, and more specifically sales, mantra should be Differentiate or Die Try’n! The problem with today’s salesforce, Marketing and Business Development, is that they’ve stopped 'try’n’' to find ways to win at the game of being different.
They’ve taken the path of least resistance in try’n to find ways to be different...using the language of commoditization.
Don’t believe me? Ask any salesperson or manager for that matter, “How are you different from others?” and you will hear the usual blah-blah:
- We offer great service.
- We care about (or serve) our customers.
- We have better pricing.
- We stand behind our product.
- Our product makes people happy.
- We’re an innovative company.
- We know our clients better than anyone else.
- And, my all time favorite; drum roll, please! “Our people are the best.”
The last one implying that some gravitation force of human resource has pulled ALL the BEST PEOPLE your way and repelled the rest (i.e., the schmucks) towards your competitors. Really?! If I walked over to your competitor right now and ask, “How are you different?”, I betcha (said with a Minnesota Accent) dollars to donuts the list would be the same! These aren’t differentiators!
In today’s competitive environment this in the price of admission into the stadium we call business. These ‘differentiators’ in aggregate is the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) you need just to be able to compete!
At this point, draw a line right here. Beyond this line let’s explore how you can differentiate your product or service. Since talk is cheap, I’ll use myself as an example to prove my point that even in a world of commoditization, you can always find points of differentiation.
A couple of years ago I was reading a FANTASTIC book called, Conversations That Win the Complex Sale by Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer. (Note: I’m a big fan of Tim, whom I’ve never met, and his work with Corporate Visions).
In the book, they drew a diagram similar to this one, which I’ve modified a bit, which really helped me visualize how to develop my (and your) differentiation message.
Many salespeople spend their time Pitching (or Presenting for you corporate snobs) in the Product Parity Zone and avoiding the Product Disadvantage Zone. Yet, the real money (i.e., the quota buster) is found in the Product Advantage Zone. And this is where salespeople, marketing, business development, C-Suiters, et al., have stopped try’n!
I know, I know what you’re thinking, “But Victor, it’s not easy finding ways to differentiate in a market where most products or services are at parity!” To you I say,
- Stop your whining, and
- Start try’n to find a way to avoid commodity trap!
I’m a sales trainer and I could easily argue that, to a large extent, I’m viewed as a commodity to be bought and sold like a bottle of overpriced Evian water. (Note: Did you ever notice that Evian spelled backward spells Naïve?) Sorry, I digress!
Here’s what I often hear from my potential clients:
- Victor c’mon, how may versions of a sales process can there be?
- Victor, why should I pay you that much for doing some 'basic' sales training?
- Victor, we already use (fill in the blank) sales process why is yours any different?
- and the list goes on.
Clients can be so cruel! (sniff).
I reject their language of commoditization and acknowledge the irony. Often these are the same clients whom themselves have fallen into their commodity trap. Their language speaks volumes.
First, I refuse to accept their language and view of ‘typical’ sales training. Second, I always acknowledge the Product Parity Zone and talk about how I do offer what they have (or have used in the past). Then, I pivot! I pivot into the Product Advantage (PD) Zone (i.e., differentiation zone) where I know I can stand out. How?
Let me illustrate with a real-world example. About a year ago I was contacted by a Swiss luxury watch company (Price range: $35,000 to $1,400,000 bling, bling!) who was in the process of interviewing potential sales speakers for their upcoming annual event in Geneva, Switzerland. The event organizer made it clear to me that I was E Pluribus Unum (one, out of many).
The only real question on their mind was, ‘Why you and not someone else?’ After going through the basics of what they’ve had in the past, what they were looking for and affirming that I would do my due diligence on the company prior to speaking, I shifted into the PD Zone.
- “In addition to researching everything about your business, I’d like to interview 3 of your top salespeople to really dig for subtle best practice techniques.
- I am also willing to visit one of your retail storefronts as a customer to experience the ‘customer experience’ and report on what I’ve found during my talk at the conference.
- In fact, I go one step further and visit your top competitor’s retail stores to see what they’re doing. This will allow me to share best-practices and where there may be some shortfalls (i.e., Gap Analysis).”
Result? Need I point to the obvious? Geneva was AWESOME along with the ovation I receive at the end of my talk!
Presentation Tip: I actually used pictures of me taken at the competitor’s store locations as part of my presentation (social proof). Dr. Robert Cialdini would be proud.
Unless you’re willing, I mean REALLY willing, to pivot OUT of the Product Parity Zone and into the Product Advantage Zone, you’ll always be stuck in the commodity trap.
The good news? I've shown companies that through effort, focus and a dose of creativity, it’s not hard to get out of the commodity trap is you’re willing to live by the mantra, ‘Differentiate or Die Try’n’.
How is your sales process different? Let's find your differentiation through a targeted sales process.