Successful sales prospecting requires an acute understanding of what you’re selling.
I’m here to break the news: you are not selling your product or your service.
You are selling your unique value proposition. That is, you are selling the difference between what you are offering and what your customer is currently doing. Whatever your product or service is, it’s merely a means to this end.
Few salespeople realize this.
In order to understand your unique value proposition, you need to be able to answer three simple questions:
- Why are you different?
- Why are you valuable?
- Why does that matter?
While these questions are short and simple, they don’t always have short and simple answers.
Few salespeople have good answers to these questions.
Consider this: the overwhelming majority of salespeople do not know what their unique value proposition is, let alone how to articulate it. And people wonder why so many salespeople are ineffective. From the get-go, salespeople are misguided about what they’re supposed to be doing, who they should talk to, and how to talk to them. The very foundation of sales is often missed. Meanwhile, people are out there wasting time arguing about whether cold calling is still alive? This is only the tip of the missed-opportunity iceberg.
So, why are you different?
If you cannot differentiate, you cannot sell. You must be able to articulate why you are different from your biggest competitor, your smallest competitor, and any competitor in between. Better is in the mind and the eye of the beholder. You are not the beholder in this case.
Better is a value judgment, and a judgment can only be made once upon a comparison is created. If that comparison is too similar, then the only real differentiator can be the price. This is not a book about how to lower your price to make more sales. In order for something to be perceived as better, it must first be perceived as different. This is where the conversation starts.
Different is objective. Different allows the customer the ability to compare and subjectively determine if that difference is better. Different is worth paying more for.
Most salespeople cannot articulate why they are different, therefore most salespeople compete on price.
You might have a brand-new product or service that has never before been offered, but those situations are very rare. Chances are, you offer something that’s already available to your prospect—either in a prettier package or an upgraded version of what they already have that makes it look new. In almost every case, there is a defined need for what you provide, and people are already meeting that need somehow. In most cases, they’re already accomplishing the tasks your product or service would help them accomplish.
So, ask yourself, what makes your solution different? Do you have an answer? Here are some questions you can answer that will help get you started.
- Is it a new tool that simplifies an old job?
- Is it a new experience?
- How does it compare to the old experience?
- What task(s) does it eliminate that used to be tedious?
- What can people do now that they were unable to before?
- Does this concept change the way people think?
- What do they think about differently? Their work? Their personal lives?
- Is there a cultural impact? Is that impact work-related? Is it related to society?
There are more questions along these lines to be asked, and answered, but I think if you’re working on these then you’re on the right track. Once you can start to understand why you and your solution are different, you can begin to make the case that you and your solution are valuable.
Ok. Now you know why you’re different. But why is that valuable?
What do these differences mean? Differences in value are analogous to features and benefits. They are not the same, but they go hand-in-hand. Your features and benefits are worth talking about, but only in terms of why they’re different and why they’re valuable.
So, what is your new tool or toy going to do for your customer? Is it going to make them more profitable? If so, how? Is it going to save them time? Is it going to save them money? Is it going to increase their cost while increasing their revenues at a higher rate? Is it going to increase their productivity in such a way that they can do more in less time? With fewer people?
Does your solution make work fun, which not only increases productivity but also increases morale? Does your solution make the workplace a more enjoyable place to come to work? Does that increase attendance? Does that increase engagement? Does that attract the best talent? Does the best talent drive the best results?
I can go down these wormholes all day long…
I think you see what I’m getting at here. What is the result of your difference? And why is that something your customer would want to happen?
You can see the benefits and value are very closely related. Benefits are objective, and value is subjective, but creating the perception of value is not enough. There needs to be a desire for that perceived value.
Once you understand why you are different and valuable, you must be able to articulate why that matters to your prospect.
If you created a compelling case for why your solution is valuable, you still have not created a compelling case for why that value is worth anything. In order to do that, you need to understand your buyer’s motives. This is where the rubber meets the road. The most important aspect of selling is understanding why people buy.
This may shock you, but not every business is focused on increasing profitability. More specifically, not every business is focused on increasing their profit the way you’re telling them they can by working with you. Yeah, yeah, I know you’re really important and all, but you are not the only one who happens to be selling to them in this manner. You’ve got to take it a step beyond that. You need to understand how much they want to save and how much more they want to do. Most importantly, you must understand what their overall goal is for their business. Then you need to paint the picture of that goal, with your solution as the centerpiece.
You also have to consider this: you’re asking someone to stop doing something the way they normally do it, change to a new way, and accept any learning curves, risks, and potential consequences along the way. That’s kind of a big ask when you think about it, right? Even a small change can have a big impact on outcomes. Ideally, that change will be tremendously beneficial, and you’ll be the hero in the customer’s eyes. However, there is always at least a possibility that the opposite will happen.
Your job as the salesperson is to create an upside, a nearly certain upside, so great and impactful that the risk of a negative outcome is more than worth the attempt. You have to answer the question, “Why should I change the way I do business just for you?” That answer needs to be personal and relevant to your customer, not to you.
Putting all of this together can be difficult, that’s why I put together this guide to help you. Answer the questions thoughtfully, and you’ll have all you need to create a value proposition that will really resonate with your prospects.