Let me share with you a case study from a client of ours. They sell a very specific technology driven engineering service that is very niche oriented and very unique. You can imagine the rebuttals I received when I first started working with them as they stated as most clients do "Tim we are really different and our industry is very unique so traditional selling methods simply don't work or have the impact like they do with your other clients."

This is not an uncommon challenge that we face in our industry. One of the participating members and the sales team was needless to say extremely reluctant to receive any type of sales coaching. Again not an uncommon challenge. This person, albeit a very technical and industry driven person, is one of the most endearing and interactive people I've ever met outside of the work interaction. My challenge was to bring that persona into his client interactions even though he was convinced that it was all about the engineering and technical aspects of the product. He felt his Sales Difference was his technical aptitude which dare I say sadly he was convinced he was the only one with such an aptitude.

The salesperson continued to work with a particular prospect huge deal and as the process unfolded and we got to the point of a decision from the customer we started to hear responses such as:

  • Your product is neck and neck with the competition in terms of features and benefits
  • Your support is pretty standard for our industry
  • It's really going to come down to price when we make our decision

So what does that teach us? High level, it provides us a glimpse that the customer is either using this as a negotiation tactic or has arbitrarily commoditized the product and service or they are truly convinced there is not a unique element to the product and service. Now what I have not shared up to this point is the sales rep begrudgingly participated in some of our sales difference strategy sessions. What he forgot was a tactic that we call the letter to the boss. During the course of interaction he sent a letter praising the contact at this particular prospect site on how easy he was to work with and fair he was in the evaluation process. He did not copy his contact but the strategy, if done genuinely and honestly, shows the prospect whether he or she was a decision-maker or influencer that they truly cared about this person. Yes we all talk about relationship building when selling but when you combine it with a specific action that most salespeople will not take the time to do this rep ultimately created a sales difference. The funny thing is it had nothing to do with the product or service standing out.

In the end the customer chose our client. I encouraged the sales rep to ask why and he was still convinced it was because of his technical aptitude. The customer stated it really was a close decision but what it came down to was our client's ability to communicate, share best practices, and genuinely demonstrate a sincere interest in the customer's success. The customer then shared without being asked to do so it certainly did not hurt that you sent such a considerate letter to one of our executives.

The sales difference, if strategically crafted, can really provide an opportunity based on how people traditionally buy and that is often emotionally. When the logic and the rational buying process sees products or services in a similar way often the person who takes the time and action to provide a sales difference will win!

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