There’s more to dealmaking than just making a sale. Getting the price that you want can keep your business profitable and can keep your company, as well as your industry, away from a race to the bottom. But how do you sell at a higher price point than competitors when buyers tend to see what you’re selling as a commodity?
Differentiating your product or service is the answer, according to Lee B. Salz, CEO of Sales Architects, a sales force development consulting firm. By finding out what your prospects need, and tailoring your sales pitches to those needs, you can experience sales success, because buyers will pay more when they think they’re getting a meaningful value for that price, Salz writes.
Salz breaks it down for readers in two parts, aimed at showing readers step-by-step how to differentiate for sales success.
Part I, What You Sell, is a primer on how to differentiate your product or service. It’s not merely about saying that what you’re selling is better or best, which, while superlative, is also meaningless coming from you. It’s rather about communicating your offering’s difference in a way that means something to the buyer, convincing them that your product is best.
Once you’ve identified your product’s differentiators, you should identify a target client who cares about what makes your product different. Keep in mind that not all differentiators you’ve identified will make a difference with every decision influencer, so you’re responsible for positioning these differentiators in a way that matters to the buyer, and making sure they understand it.
So, how do you go about convincing buyers that your product is best? That’s covered in Part II: How You Sell. Listen to your buyer, then position your product in a way that it solves their problems. Salz uses an example of his time at a company that offered IT training during the dot-com boom. Software companies wanted people to know how to use their products, but they didn’t want to become software trainers themselves, so they wanted IT training firms to join their network of
authorized trainers, using the software companies’ course materials.
That’s pretty close to the definition of a commodity product: it doesn’t matter which authorized training partner a student signs up with, because they’ll get the same training materials either way. Differentiating this kind of product could be a challenge.
Salz describes a strategy of making his company’s training the least frustrating to purchase. Clients’ corporate bureaucracies made signing up for the training cumbersome, and sometimes even impossible. Sometimes, clients’ employees found they were being trained on irrelevant topics. And sometimes, clients’
employees who received training ended up leaving the company, taking their newfound skills with them.
To solve these pain points, Salz’s team came up with a blanket purchase order for a year’s worth of training to reduce bureaucratic hassle and to lock out competition. They added a policy in which the company issued full credit if students were dissatisfied for any reason, while setting up a team to make sure students were paired with appropriate courses. And they said if an employee left within six months of completing training, they would train the employee’s replacement for only the cost of the books.
The result: The company became one of the largest, most profitable training companies for Microsoft, Novell and IBM/Lotus, according to Salz. They had innovated a commodity to address buyer challenges, and succeeded.
If you’re stuck competing for price, “Sales Differentiation” may just provide the map you need win deals at higher prices.
19 Powerful Strategies To Win More Deals At The Prices You Want
By Lee B. Salz
HarperCollins Leadership. 208 pages. $25.