If you have ten products which are all equivalent, then the relative features and benefits of one versus the other nine becomes something that is, for the most part, irrelevant.
Getting into an argument about the features and benefits of one versus the other is a sure fire way to kill rapport and destroy trust as a valued advisor. It just becomes a scrap.
There is so little to differentiate the performance of most of the top products today that looking to them for a significant point of differentiation, particularly with more senior customers, is a struggle. It is a battle that will be lost as many times as it is won.
And so there has to be a realisation at every level that the most significant point of differentiation is the salesperson.
They must be selected for this, they must strive for this and they must be developed to become the point of differentiation.
They must be willing to stand out as a credible expert in their field. They must strive to be seen as the individual who can demonstrate and raise issues which are objective, which are important to the customer and which demonstrate his or her credibility and insight.
They must complete research prior to meetings and discussions so that they understand the problems of their customers inside out, and be able to list the three most important problems facing their customer – before even meeting with them.
They have to know the customer better than they know themselves.
But, of course, this requires a massive step change not only in the way that salespeople view themselves, but in the way that sales organisations view their salespeople.
For many years there was a belief that hindered this approach – the belief that the salesperson couldn’t be the point of differentiation.
The concern was that, if the salesperson was the point of differentiation and they left, the customer might move with them. So something tangible, something fixed, something recognisable as an asset – the product, the service, the brand, the company, the supply chain, or the price – had to be the point of differentiation.
But none of these things really are the point of differentiation now. They may offer table stakes, but it’s highly unlikely that they will offer the biggest point of differentiation, because there is less and less to differentiate the performance of most of the top products.
So whilst the salesperson has to acknowledge that he or she is now the point of differentiation, the company must also do everything it can to set them up in a way that allows them to be so – and that means a change from what is regarded and acknowledged as the standard working week: being in front of customers for eight hours a day,
five days a week, to an appreciation that the sales person must now set aside critical thinking time to do the hard but mandatory work of understanding their customers and their key challenges.
Salespeople now more than ever need to see their territories as their own business. They need to do the diligent and hard work required to ensure that when they get in front of the right customer, they are able to demonstrate their credibility as an expert in their field.
And this takes time.
To read more about the seven problems facing sales organisations today and the changes required, you can do so by downloading the Change Report for free by clicking here