I spoke recently to Susan Adams at Forbes Magazine who was very interested in the role of the sales person today and we began by discussing the concept of the product that sells itself. Well as any of you in sales know, such products while not quite mythical are certainly few and far between. The Apple products iPhone and iPAD probably fall into that category for now although the strides made by Android phones and by other tablet makers have started to slowly erode that position.
So in the absence of a groundbreaking product or service or one with a major wow factor, (the one that makes all your friends and colleagues jealous), you are pretty much left swimming in a sea of commoditization and perceived sameness. And this commoditization does not only afflict mass market consumer products, indeed it largely pervades all products and services to one degree or another. The fact is we as vendors often look at ourselves as high differentiated but our customers see us as very similar to our competitors. In other when we look in the mirror we often see something very different from what the customer sees.
So what can we do to differentiate ourselves if we are largely seen as just another shade of white? Well one of the most effective ways is for the individual sales person to become a value creator during the selling process. Consider the four value drivers that Huthwaite has identified through its extensive research:
• The seller revealed to the buyer an Unrecognized Problem that the buyer or the buyer’s organization was experiencing.
• The seller helped the buyer realize an Unforeseen Opportunity for their organization that was not immediately apparent.
• The seller established for the buyer an Unanticipated Solution to the problems that the buyer or the buyer’s organization was experiencing.
• The seller served as more than just a vendor of products or services, but instead served as a Broker of Capabilities. Specifically, the seller served to make available to the buyer the full range of capabilities of the seller’s organization in such a way that these capabilities contributed to an expansion or redefinition of the customer’s success.
In others words you know your product or service, that is a given but what you need to do is uncover and truly understand the prevailing business conditions of your customer, their strategic initiatives, their challenges and their opportunities and then bring your value creating talents to bear as outlined above. If you are simply a conduit of product or service information then quite frankly you are just getting in the way as there are far more efficient ways for the customer to get that information e.g. online or from their professional networks (indeed the latter is going to provide more objective information that you are likely to!).
So rather than risk becoming another casualty of disintermediation start focusing on the value drivers and establish yourself as a truly valuable resource to your customer.
To learn more about the value drivers, read our whitepaper Creating Real Value for Customers.