By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
In my first year of selling I worked for a company that had a competitive analysis group. When encountering a particular competitor, you contacted one of the staff and a conversation centered on “knock offs” (advantages the company felt we had) that could be presented to the prospect. A few observations:
Virtually no questioning was done to attempt to determine if the buyer had any need or interest in these features.
The thought that these “knock offs” were important were very highly subjective decisions made by my company.
Some of the worst calls I ever made occurred when my objective was to highlight these specific features. The fact is it clouded my brain and negatively impacted by efforts to positively sell my offering.
In my experience, sales cycles degrade into “feature wars” at mid to lower levels within prospect organizations. For sellers doing bottom up sales, that means it starts almost immediately. Calling at high levels early provides the following benefits:
A chance to determine very early if enough potential value exists so that the opportunity can be qualified.
If a senior executive is not interested, you will likely know that after the first call. This falls into the category we refer to as: Bad news early is good news.
Often at executive levels you may not have differentiators in that the calls by definition should be higher level. That said starting at executive levels and discussing business outcomes can make the way you sell a differentiator.
If/when you do establish differentiators, try to drill down to tie VALUE to them. If you can help the buyer quantify the benefit of your differentiator you solidify your position. If/when a buyer asks if you have a feature not included in your offering, my suggestion is to ask: How would you use it? Why is that important to you?
A sound competitive strategy is to start at high levels and identify business outcomes Key Players are hoping to achieve. When you get to lower levels, be sure to positively sell your offering and try to address/neutralize competitors’ differentiators by learning why that feature is important to the buyer and what financial impact it would allow.
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