You Do Not Sell a Commodity

Your product is not a commodity. There are significant differences between you and your competitors. However, your prospect may not yet appreciate those differences.

The bigger problem is that you don’t appreciate these differences. It’s easier to complain about the commoditization of the market and ask your manager for the ability to discount than it is to do the hard work necessary and identify the things you can do for your customer that nobody else can.

Differentiation requires effort.

Differentiation requires changing the conversation.

Differentiation requires a better skill set.

Selling on price seems easy. If your solution produces reasonable results, less expensively than the next guy, companies will line up to buy from you. Everybody likes saving money, right?

Wrong. Here’s why…

The “we’ll save you money” conversation is boring. Everybody is using it, so none of your prospects trust it. You’re also training your customers that their biggest decision-making factor should be cost. If you sell on price, there will always be someone who can come in a little lower. That’s a race to the bottom, and it’s often worse to win that race than lose it. It’s best not to enter.

If you can really deliver the results you promise, then why aren’t they worth paying for? Those same prospects who are skeptical of your cost-savings pitch are learning that most times, they get what they pay for. Paying a little more might just get them a better outcome.

So, look at the situation you’ve created. Not only are you selling a product that you’ve undervalued, but because of the way you’re talking about it, you’re also not attracting the kind of customer who’d be happily willing to pay more for it. Those are exactly the kind of customers that differentiate sales careers from sales jobs.

Sit down and think about what really makes your solution different. Don’t worry about what makes it “better” yet. Focus on what makes it different. Write all of those differences down so that they’re identified (your fee structure is disqualified, it’s not even a consideration here).

Now that you have a list, consider why those differences would be valuable to a potential customer. Write those down too. (Pro tip: ask your best customers what’s valuable about what makes you different. Ask them about the real reasons they buy from you. You will almost certainly be surprised.)

Now you can start to think about the outcomes your differentiators provide your prospects, based on real-world results from current customers, as well as your own creative powers. These are the things that should be leading your sales conversations. These are the kinds of things your prospects love to talk about. Not the new design of the drill bit (or the lower price), but how better holes will have an impact on the entire project. These are also the things that should dominate your water cooler discussions with other sales reps in your company. Everybody's ideas working together are far more powerful than your own. 

It’s not easy work, and most salespeople won’t do it. Jeffrey Gitomer taught me that most salespeople aren’t willing to do the hard work necessary to make selling easy. He’s right. That’s why most salespeople aren’t very good at selling.

I’m challenging you to be different.