It sounds so mysterious and elusive. But sales differentiation is much easier and much more effective than you may think.
The purpose of differentiating yourself is not to get noticed. It's to create enough value and interest that buyers will choose to meet with you, choose to spend time talking about needs and solutions with you, and choose to buy from you.
The importance of differentiating yourself can't be over-stated. Our research with 530 B2B buyers revealed that there are 30 differentiating behaviors that will make buyers more likely to meet with sellers AND more likely to buy from them.
The best thing about differentiating behaviors is that they are identifiable, replicable and break down selling into simple choices. Will you or won't you behave a certain way? That decision is the only one you need to make in order to differentiate yourself in ways that cause buyers to respond favorably.
Sales Differentiation to Open the Sale
In an age of empowered buyers, it's becoming increasingly difficult to get an appointment or even 10 minutes phone time with a prospect.
AI, auto dialers, SDR support, lead gen systems... A lot of time, effort, tools and attention go into finding and connecting with good prospects. And when you do connect, you only have seconds to demonstrate that time with you will be high value.
You already know that rapid fire pitching doesn't do the job. Scripts seldom work. Your canned value proposition doesn't do the job either.
So what can you do that's different and changes the way a buyer sees you? How can you stand out and prove, in an instant, that you're not like all those other sellers that they buyers work so hard to avoid?
There's only one thing you can do to compel a prospect's attention and interest. According to buyers, you need to ask a thought-provoking, relevant and quality question.
Right at the beginning of the conversation. In voice mail, email or live, you can ask a question that is so compelling that it actually opens a conversation. That question, all by itself, sets you apart from other sellers.
Participants in the DISCOVER Questions® workshop have field-tested quality questions to open sales and report breakthrough success with buyers. Try one of these:
- What if your CEO heard about a solution from someone other than you?
- Describe the difference between your current service and your ideal service.
- What is the #1 thing you need from the salespeople you work with?
By opening with a hard-hitting question that's relevant to a prospect, you trigger a response other than "I don't have time" or "I'm not interested." You start a dialogue. It will lead, in good time, to the qualifying and needs assessment questions you'd like to ask. But you will never get to those until you open the relationship.
That's what strong, differentiating questions will do.
Sales Differentiation to Advance the Sale
Don't make this mistake!
It may be tempting, once the sale is opened, to lapse into stereotypical sales behaviors that feel like "bait and switch" to buyers.
As a field coach, I see this happen far too frequently. The seller promises a meeting to discuss the buyer's needs. The buyer grants the meeting, only to be ambushed with the same-old sales pitching. The discussion of the buyer's needs ceases just as soon as the seller catches even the faintest whiff of a potential need.
Buyers notice the pivotal moment when a seller could choose to probe more and engage at a more meaningful level. They notice when a seller responds in a Pavlovian fashion rather than continuing the conversation in a natural way that signals genuine interest and a desire to understand and help.
On the positive side, buyers also notice when a seller does not launch into a premature product pitch. It's differentiating when a seller asks follow-up questions to more completely comprehend the situation. It's even more differentiating when a seller engages the buyer in the co-creation of insights.
What's more, buyers respond. Sales advance. Sellers sell when they differentiate themselves during the sales process by truly remaining buyer-focused.
Sales Differentiation to Close the Sale
Sales advance when a buyer trusts a seller. Buyers want to buy when a seller has collaboratively worked with them to create the solution that makes sense. Buyers want to reward sellers who have positively differentiated themselves.
When it comes time to close the sale, remain buyer focused. This is about getting a solution in place to help the buyer. It's not about going in for the kill and making that whopping commission. Your intent is evident to the buyer.
Closing the sale on value means staying tuned in to what matters to the buyer. The work you did in discovery and in co-creating a solution isn't some slick sales tactic. It's the way you dignify the buyer and develop something that's compelling enough for the buyer to take action on getting.
Sellers lose sales when they revert to closing on price or use high-pressure that suddenly conjures images of all those other sellers. It's important to remain differentiated and to let the buyer know you are not going to abandon them once the contract is signed.
Buyers are skeptical because they've been burned before by smooth-talking sellers who promise but don't deliver. This is an easy way to differentiate yourself. Just do what you say you will do. Be credible. Don't be the stereotypical seller who suckers unsuspecting buyers into deals they'll regret.
When you differentiate yourself from open to close, you'll get satisfied customers, repeat business and great referrals. This is the way to working smarter, not harder. It all starts with showing you have something unique to offer -- You.
Next Steps for Opening and Closing More Quickly by Optimizing Your Sales Differentiation:
Read the book that shows you how to build trust, engage buyers and become the ONE seller that buyers actually WANT to talk to. This bestseller was recently named one of "The 20 Most Highly-Reviewed Sales Books of All Time" by HubSpot!
Learn more about The Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement and our groundbreaking B2B buyer research.
The award-winning CONNECT2Sell Blog is for professional sellers who believe, as we do, that Every Sale Starts with a Connection. Our 2017 emphasis will be on reporting buyer-side research and how sellers can connect with buyers and sell more effectively by adopting the behaviors of leaders. The Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement is all about the future state of sales and your success as a Sales Professional.
Deb Calvert is President of People First Productivity Solutions, a UC Berkeley instructor, and a former Sales/Training Director of a Fortune 500 media company. She speaks and writes about the Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement and offers sales training, coaching and consulting as well as leadership development programs. She is certified as an executive and sales coach by the ICF and is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. Deb has worked in every sector and in 14 countries to build leadership capacity, team effectiveness and sales productivity with a “people first” approach. Her bestselling book “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected” has been named by HubSpot as one of "The 20 Most Highly-Rated Sales Books of All Time."