Selling in a Tough Economy

One dreaded statement from a sales
prospect can make a salesperson
turn pale.

“Is this your best deal?”

“I’ve interviewed a couple of your competitors
and they are willing to sell for less.”

“Thanks, but we want to shop around before
deciding to sign up with you.”

A client recently said, “Our business has been
so good for the past five years that we haven’t
felt a need to do any sales training, but things
are different now and we need help!” In today’s
market of intense competition and constant
margin pressure, this scenario continues to
replay itself.

When not prepared for price resistance seen
in tough market conditions, a weak salesperson stammers
with a poorly thought-out response like, “Well, let me see
what I can do.” Is it really about price or is it value? Let’s
consider some solutions.

What is value anyway?
The truth is that value, like beauty, is quite subjective.
It is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder. It is incumbent
upon every sales professional to find out exactly what
the prospect values. Be sure to
lead with your ears and ask the
questions that reveal what your
prospect actually values.

Learn to Sell Value by Differentiating Your Services
To decision makers, we often
appear to offer just about the same
products and services. At U.S.
Learning we define a commodity
as a product or service with no
discernible differences, one from
another, that is available from
multiple sources.

"Harness the power of relationships and lock out the competition, regardless of the marketplace."

Your prospective customers may be busy commoditizing
your solution, in which case you must be busy differentiating
it. The bottom line is this: Unless we can create a
powerful and distinct difference to the customer, we all
appear to have the same product or service.

So the question is: How do I separate myself and our
offerings from the competition? The answer: You’ve just
got to be different—really different. And it’s not always
about price!
Seven Ways to Differentiate Yourself from the Competition
1. Product Differentiation
How is your product or offering different from or better than
your competitors’? If you can’t come up with some solidly unique
components, you may be in danger of being perceived as just another
commodity. Here’s a strategy:

Perhaps you and others within your company can make product
enhancements a major initiative. The collective intellect of this group
might well be able to create something unique about your product
or service; then creatively exploit every aspect of the difference
and tie it into what the prospective customer values. Your goal is to
come up with both UCAs (unique competitive advantages) and RAs
(relative advantages).

2. Price Differentiation
Unsophisticated marketing and sales people often
think the best way to get business is by underpricing
everybody else. Thin margins have put
more companies out of business than any other
single factor. If the boss chooses to go to market as
the low-price provider, your company better have
every expense category cut to the bone, including
sales commissions, or it will perish in short order! In
my opinion, this is the worst avenue of approach in
trying to build a viable long-term enterprise.

3. Relationship Differentiation
If there is a solid relationship between you and your clients based
on high trust, you have an inside track of tremendous value. This
environment will make you the envy of your competitors, and your
client may not even give your competitor a chance if the relationship
is strong enough.

Build trust with a solid, high-integrity win-win approach by
exceeding their expectations and being a valued resource in every
conceivable way. Be prepared to earn their trust, which takes time,
planning and perseverance. Be impeccable with your word from the
get-go and implement a communication process that continues to
keep you and your clients connected.

4. Process Differentiation
Many companies don’t attach enough significance to the processes
that dictate the image of their business model. The “We’ve never
done it that way” syndrome bites us in the backside when we don’t
give innovative thought to our business practices. Get your best
minds together and brainstorm better, more customer-friendly outof-
the-box ways to do business. Remember that how business is
conducted changes every day due to globalization, e-commerce, the
Internet, new software programs. Capitalize on innovation rather
than being a victim of it!

5. Technological Differentiation
This age of modern technology affords many opportunities to
advance our ways of operating and communicating. These new
modes of communication encompass a wide variety of options, from
using podcasts to update customers or address customer-sensitive
issues to a blog that provides “voice” and interface to “hear” from
your customers that results in your prospects better understanding
updates, changes and timely buying opportunities. Cardinal rule:
Make it easy for the customer to communicate and buy.

6. Experiential Differentiation
Many people believe that we are in an “experience economy.” Can
we provide customers with knock-your-socks-off service and experiences
that are so memorable that they start telling their friends and
colleagues? Customer service miracles are anything you can do to
make a customer say “Wow!” Ask yourself, “How can I make doing
business with me an irresistible experience?”

7. Marketing Differentiation
Give careful thought to how you go to market. If you can outsell
your competitors, you will gain market share.

Determine ways to create a distinction in your sales and marketing
approaches that support setting you apart in your marketplace. If
your sales process is so compelling that your prospects
see you and your offering as irresistible, it renders your
competitors irrelevant!

Remember, people will always pay for expertise and do business
with those individuals they know, like and trust! When
trust is high, stress levels go down and vice versa, which is
why high-pressure tactics really don’t work anymore.

In conclusion, I suggest we revisit the original price objections
mentioned at the beginning. Your goal should be to transition your
prospect from a discussion on price to a discussion on the differentiated
deliverables you offer. When the prospect asks if that is your
best price, I suggest you say, “Mr. Bradley, it is very easy to simply
focus on apparent price rather than actual cost. I would ask that you
give me a few more minutes to allow me to distinguish between our
product offerings and those of our competitors. We have engineered
some significant advantages for you that are unique to the marketplace.”
After getting his permission to continue, you should go into
your differentiated advantages, building the value of your solutions
in light of his expressed needs. Good luck and good selling! S

Don Hutson is a speaker, author, sales trainer and CEO of U.S. Learning. He
is the author or co-author of nine books, including the No. 1
New York Times
The One Minute Entrepreneur. A member of the Speakers Hall of
Fame, past president of the National Speakers Association and recipient of its
Cavett Award as Member of the Year, he addresses some 75 audiences a year.


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