Here is the challenge: You are fighting a war on two fronts, price and growth. You want to grow market share, but you want to do it with deals that have decent margins. Gaining market share requires you to take business away from competitors. But, your sales force too frequently relies on a low price to get the job done.
Have I said anything that doesn’t ring true?
The answer to both of these challenges can be wrapped up in one word: DIFFERENTIATION. Trouble is, it keeps getting harder to differentiate yourself. Your competitors either sell products identical to yours or they seem to be cloning your product and service capabilities. Even your sales force might refer to your solutions as commodities. Margins shrink as customers challenge you to meet or beat the lowest price for the goods and services you sell. You want more market share, but winning competitive deals is harder than ever.
Why is this so hard? After all, a handful of salespeople at the top of the heap appear to have a way to avoid the price trap and to take customers away from the competition without sacrificing margins. According to our research, 86% of sales executives say that their top-performing salespeople consistently generate higher margins. If they can do it, why can’t we teach others to do it?
Maybe it’s because the solution to meaningful differentiation cannot be found in any of the remedies most so-called experts try to thrust upon us. In fact, most sales-training programs are teaching the wrong things; they are aiming at the wrong targets. Our surveys find that the No. 1 reason customers say they buy from one rep over the other is not product features, not company reputation, and not price. What customers value above all is the quality of the sales relationship. If your sales training focuses on product knowledge, company capabilities, and skills like price negotiation, you are enabling salespeople to do the wrong things.
If you focus on things like product knowledge and price negotiation, you are enabling salespeople to do the wrong things.
Here are three common—and deadly—myths about how training can help salespeople get better at differentiating themselves, their companies, and their products.
Myth #1: Salespeople need to get better at closing. Reality: Salespeople need to get better at opening.
Myth #2: Salespeople need to become better price negotiators. Reality: They need a way to sell that takes the focus off price negotiations altogether.
Myth #3: Price haggling is a way for customers to feel like they’re winning. Reality: Your clients would be glad to stop nickeling and diming their precious time away. They’d love to find a justifiable way to escape the price trap. You just need to give them one.
These myths don’t just teach salespeople the wrong things. They also teach customers the wrong things. Because we’ve approached the problem incorrectly for so long, what we’ve accomplished is to educate the customer to focus on price and always negotiate for a better deal. That’s ridiculous when we know for sure that certain top-performing salespeople in every industry are able to maintain margins and grow market share while others are not. It should be obvious that the answer doesn’t lie inWhat You Sell but How You Sell.
If salespeople can show their customers how and why they represent a clearly differentiated solution, they will win more often at higher prices. In reality, the battleground for differentiation has little to do with product features, company capability, or low prices. The battleground is inside the mind of the buyer (or buyers, in a complex selling situation). If you don’t know what’s going on in the mind of the buyer, you can only take random shots in the dark at serving their needs.
Furthermore, if you present your capabilities randomly or in a manner unconnected to the unique needs of the customer, you’ll look exactly like every other vendor. I’m sure you’ve heard of differentiated solutions. What salespeople must learn, once and for all, is that you can’t truly present a differentiated solution until you’ve first uncovered a DIFFERENTIATED NEED.
Remember that term. I want to tell you all about it in the next edition of eCoach.
For now, let me leave you with this thought: Any improvement you achieve in the performance of your sales team can be magnified enormously if you also improve the performance of all members of your customer-contact teams. That’s when you’ll discover what a truly great sales culture can do.
Download our free White Paper on how to achieve the sort of differentiation that really matters to customers. What Differentiates You?
For information about how to make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling at (800) 232-3485.
Did someone mention a truly great sales culture? Learn how to build one in our free White Paper, Want a Better Sales Culture?