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Are You The Salesperson Creating Value For Your Customer?

by David Brock on July 9th, 2019

I was talking to a team of sales people about engaging their customers with insight and getting them to think about their businesses in different ways.

They happened to sell supply chain management software. The software, like most other supply chain software solutions enabled their customers to better understand and manage inventory, orders, quality, scheduling and other things with their supplier.

We had developed some unique insights based on benchmarks with customers and supported by case studies.

As we were talking about what these meant to the customer and how to engage the customer in the conversation, a sales person raised an issue.

“As much as we like to think our solution is unique and highly differentiated, our competitors can do similar things. How do we deal with the situation where we are providing the insights and the competitors say, ‘We can do the same thing/'”

It was an important question, too many haven’t thought this out.

How would you handle it if you were presenting the value your solution creates and the competitor simply says, “We can do that as well!”

Too often, the reality is that our solutions aren’t highly differentiated from our competitors. Certainly there are some things we do better and some they do better, but for the most part it may be very difficult to differentiate the value of the alternative solutions–at least in substantive ways.

The differentiator is the sales person that engages the customer in those insight driven, learning conversations. That’s what the customer is paying for that’s what the customer is buying.

Certainly, the actual ability to produce the result through the implementation of the solution, is critical, if everyone can do the same thing, how is the customer going to make a decision.

It will always be to the sales person that is providing them the leadership to look at their business differently. It’s the sales person that helps them identify where they can improve, how they can do it, what it might mean that’s truly creating value for the customer.

Your competition isn’t doing that. They are simply saying “I can do the same thing,” but they aren’t the people helping the customer identify how they can grow, improve, achieve.

Sure your customer might say, “They can do the same thing only 10% cheaper!”

Your immediate, proud response must be, “But where were they giving you the ideas and identifying the opportunity to enable you to solve that problem and to better achieve your goals?”

Our products and the value they create when implemented are table stakes. We absolutely have to produce the results, otherwise we shouldn’t be considered. But others can too.

What’s going to cause the customer to buy from you is the leadership you provide to help them run their businesses better, because they aren’t getting that from your competition!

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One Comment
  1. Joel Lyles permalink

    > Sure your customer might say, “They can do the same thing only 10%
    > cheaper!”
    >
    > Your immediate, proud response must be, “But where were they giving
    > you the ideas and identifying the opportunity to enable you to solve that
    > problem and to better achieve your goals?”

    1.) This is just my opinion, but I think this is the differentiating quality between a transactional sale and a complex sale. Not the price or the frequency of purchase or the number of DMs, it’s whether the stakeholders can meaningfully appreciate getting strategic insight as part of the sale.

    Of course, the question then becomes ‘is the customer uninterested in your strategic insight because they don’t value insight in that area of business or simply because you the sales rep / sales team / overall company are not bringing the right kind of insight’? I’ve been sold to by reps who brought insight in the unlikeliest of areas, such as operationally undifferentiated circuit testing equipment or, so usually the answer is the latter.

    2.) Going with 1 and your post overall, I think this is where a lot of sales organizations, especially SaaS ones, get into trouble. If you have legitimately disruptive product, it’s really easy to get the mentality of ‘if you can get them to the demo / trial eval the sale closes itself’. That is, intentionally shifting over to a transactional sale where the rep is disintermediated — the product is SO GOOD that selling insight as well only slows the process down.

    The problem is, how long does this last? The company I’m with has a huge product suite with some genuinely disruptive, one-of-a-kind solutions as part of its suite. And the ‘the product sells itself’ mentality eventually hits a wall in one or more areas:

    1) Competition rears its ugly head. If your engineers were able to come up with this awesome disruptive solution in a couple of years in some guy’s basement, how long do you think it’ll take for some other company to copy you? People are not idiots, if you grow from a startup to a 50-million dollar company in five years because your product legitimately does what no one else does, why WOULDN’T other competitors or young turks decide to get in on that action?

    2) Product development has some kind of misstep. Not an insurmountable one, but it takes away (usually permanently) its ‘the product sells itself’ aura. A change of vendors or subcontractors extends the installation time by several weeks. It suddenly requires an industrial or computing environment customers aren’t ready for. Or it just has a major bug.

    3) The customer’s world changes. Your product beats the pants off of every other solution in almost every strategic area and has been doing so for a decade. Then the unthinkable happens. The customer’s strategic objectives change. They get rid of their on-site servers and move to the cloud. They come up with a new fabrication process. A new drug gets approved by the FDA.

    If you have a good company, they can recover from this disruption. If you have a great company, you’ve probably been preparing for this. You don’t die, but in this brave new world you’re no longer the invincible top dog.

    Sorry if that’s rambling, Dave, I just had to get that off of my chest. I’ve been talking to a number of colleagues and sales managers who are absolutely convinced that the best way to sell is to latch onto a uniformly superior product, sell transactionally, and watch the money roll in. They all work in SaaS, by the way.

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