Can Your Sales Team Execute Differentiation?


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For the 8th consecutive year, SBI has published a best practice research report. It’s called “How to Make Your Number in 2015.” The report discusses the consequences of not having a sales strategy. If you want to compare your strategy against your peers, enroll in our workshop.

I’ve participated in a number of the workshops with sales leaders this year. Many are preparing to launch new products next year.Different_vs._Better

There’s been a common gap in almost every new product discussion: Differentiation. Sales leaders – more importantly sales reps – cannot differentiate themselves from the competition. Their strategies do not account for this, putting the new product’s success at risk.

A Litmus Test

The next time you speak with one of your reps and managers, test this. Pretend you are a prospective buyer. Ask your rep/manager: Why should I buy (insert new product) from you? What’s different about you vs. (insert competitor)?

Listen to their response. Chances are you will get a feature and benefit pitch. A long-winded monologue about how your product is superior. Ask yourself if your customers will be able to tell the difference. Or, if they are going to care? Would you buy based on the answer you got?

This is a problem for many sales leaders. In fact, 78% of sales leaders have the wrong sales strategy. 67% of them who had the wrong strategy had the same one as their competitors.   

When a sales team has the same strategy as the competition, the sales experience becomes a commodity. When this happens, there is no longer the ability to differentiate on anything other than product or price. Unless the company is lucky enough to sell a product superior to others, an advantage that is likely to be short lived, the pricing pressure will result in missing the number.How to Make Your Number in 2015, SBI

Different vs. Better

Many companies think their products are better than the competition. This may be true, but it is very difficult to prove. Technical people – typically users – may be able to distinguish something that’s better. But, does your buyer know? Usually they don’t, which pulls you into the doldrums of pricing wars.

Is Your Smart Phone Better?

Take an example everyone is familiar with: Smart phones.

You are likely reading this post on an iPhone/iPad, Android or Windows phone. Do you know what makes your phone “better” than the other brands?

Each phone has a color screen of varying size. The new ones have faster processors. You can talk, text, surf the web, get new apps, etc. For all intents and purposes, they are very similar. Unless you are a hardcore techy, it’s hard to know for sure which one is “best.”

Most buyers aren’t technical enough to know why your product is better. They default to how you’re different.

Apple does this brilliantly. The first iPhone was revolutionary. It was completely different from anything consumers had seen before. It combined work (email), personal (music, apps) with a mobile phone. It became a must have for consumers and business users alike. It was truly different.

Shortly thereafter, Samsung, Motorola, Nokia and others caught up to Apple. You could do many (if not more) of the same things on any smart phone. Apple again raised the stakes:

  • They licensed music to sell songs for $0.99 you could listen to only on an Apple device.
  • They opened retail stores.
  • They created the Genius Bar for tech support.
  • They created the iPad to bridge the gap between phones and PCs.
  • They released new phones like a software product, generating record-breaking sales each time.

Apple’s slogan “Think Different” holds true. They’ve created an incredibly unique customer experience, therefore creating demand for their product. Whether the phone is “the best” or not no longer matters. It’s an Apple phone and consumers have to have it. Apple sold more than 10 million iPhone 6s in the first 3 days on the market.

Can Your Sales Team Execute Differentiation?

If you’re getting ready to launch a new product, what’s your sales strategy? The product likely won’t sell itself, which puts the onus on you. When your buyer asks “How are you different,” will your team respond effectively? Can they create a unique experience that the buyer desires above all else?

To do this effectively, you need a unique strategy. You’ll need to determine things like:

  • What markets are we going after?
  • What problems are our buyers experiencing?
  • How do our competitors go to market?
  • What unique value do we bring?

As Jonathan Ive said, it’s far easier to be different than better. In a world where buyers are saturated with information, they look for unique qualities.

SBI’s research report and workshop are designed to help you with this. If you’re concerned about your team’s ability to differentiate, have a look. It might help you make your new product strategy a success.  

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ryan Tognazzini
Ryan is a recognized thought leader in business-to-business sales force effectiveness. During his time at Sales Benchmark Index, he developed many of the evidence-based best practices housed in SBI's database of 11,000 companies. Ryan has more than 15 years of experience focused on increasing sales productivity through improvements in account segmentation, lead generation and sales processes.


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