A friend of mine is a regional sales director for a Fortune 500 (soon to be 100) company. His boss recently asked everyone at his level to provide a brief response to the question, what makes his company different/better than other providers. My friend’s response is one that all fast growth executives need to know and understand.
He said, “in a world where every product is the same, or at least perceived as the same, the only difference that matters is the salesperson's ability to sell. Our company is better because our salespeople are better.” Don’t view this as an oversimplified viewpoint. My friend sells a highly sophisticated solution. His company has several proprietary offerings that they insist matter. What he understands is that no matter how unique your offering is, a) if the buyer doesn’t understand how it’s unique, and more importantly, why that uniqueness matters and/or b) the buyer has alternatives (and they always have alternatives), then you’re not unique.
He is absolutely right. Today, if your sales effort isn’t superior in a meaningful way to the buyer, then your margins will be under attack. If your buyers don’t feel a difference between how you sell and how your competitors do, then they are going to assume you are the same, and price will become the driving factor. As a matter of fact, there is no acute symptom more directly tied to ineffective sales efforts than price increasing in importance in the decision and/or your margins facing increased pressure.
Selling is the process of enabling buyers and potential buyers to, first, understand their problems and, second, to understand how one's solution can solve the actual problem. Selling is not telling. Selling is far more than the ability to make an energetic presentation or to tell a story. While these skills are quite valuable, selling today is far more about diagnosing and consulting (not to be confused with "consultative") than it is about the power to "close" or to overcome objections.
Selling and salesmanship, today, is about your ability to:
- Provoke the awareness of problems within your customer base
- Diagnose those problems in a collaborative fashion
- Have the business conversations to help your buyer's translate your offerings into their results
- The ability to make them feel safe
The winners of tomorrow will be the ones who invest the time, the money, the energy, and the discipline into build a superior sales force.