Differentiation: The key to sales success is you

3 minute read

Ok, we’ve all done it. When we lose a sale we say ‘Our product’s just too expensive”. We’ve criticized corporate branding, and we’ve complained about the product or service delivery. We’ve pointed to each of these, and others, as the reason why we’ve failed. And, let’s be honest – it’s not the reason, it’s an excuse.

I’ve held the view for a long time that if you lose a sale there are really only two reasons why that happen. Either you shouldn’t have been bidding for the business in the first place, because your product didn’t fit the needs of the target customer, or you’ve been outsold – simple as that. In the latter case – and this is sometimes hard to accept – if you lose a piece of business that you’re qualified to win, then you’ve been outsold. Your competitor has done a better job than you at articulating their value. You failed to show true difference, as opposed to mere positioned differentiation.

Or, in the case where the customer makes ‘No Decision’, then you’ve failed to describe to the customer why investing in your product is good for them. In effect you’ve been outsold by the customer’s inertia or anxiety.

As I said, this has been my view for a while, but courtesy of a recent webinar from the good guys over at Corporate Visions, there’s now the research to back this up. A recent study from the Corporate Executive Board demonstrates clearly that it’s primarily down to the sales person to demonstrate differentiation. So you can forget about blaming the product, the price, the implementation team – or any other reason. When you win – it’s because you did a good job. But when you lose it’s because you didn’t do so well.

In response to the question “How much impact do the following have on the customer’s decision to buy?”, here are the results from the Corporate Executive Board research. (Graphic courtesy of Corporate Visions).

You can see that, yes, it’s mainly about the performance of the sales person in the field. My question to you then is, “What are you doing about it? Are you following a sales process that maps your field interactions to the customer’s buying activities?

You control over half of the outcome. Get the right process in place and you can increase the positive impact of what you can control. In the end, it’s up to you to differentiate yourself, and leave the excuses to the competitors when they lose.

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