Being different seems to be really important to some people in sales. From their buyers, to product, to the way the sell, people want to cling to being different. It is like “Difference” is some sort of badge of honour, a reason to pay a premium, or worse, a rationale for results.
You often hear people talk about how the complexity of their sale makes it different. But all sales are complex in their own way, just because one may have more moving parts than another, does not make it more complex or different. Sure the moving parts in selling desalination plants may differ from those found in selling business process outsourcing, but the core components and core execution, not that different. Wanting it to be different does not change the fact that it has to be executed along a defined path (or process, you know, that’s a bit more complex), and one step at a time.
The “sophistication of the solution”, does not equate to “different” or “complex”. Just ask someone selling a fairly simple and standard product, in a highly competitive, price sensitive environment; these sales people have a much more complex selling challenge, especially if they can maintain price integrity. But in the end there is less difference than many sales professionals would want to pretend.
I remember meeting with a VP of Sales with a “Solutions Provider “, and indeed they had a product that was “cool”, and in demand, addressing a common requirement in their target market. From the time we met at a conference he was into the “I am interested in what you do Tibor, but you gotta understand we’re different.” I don’t know, he like everyone at their booth, had two arms, two legs, a big mouth, didn’t seem that different, maybe I’ll figure it out when we meet at their office.
Later at the office, he was right back at it, preaching the (invisible) difference. As one who likes to break the sale down to logical sequential steps, I thought I would explore.
TS: So let me get this straight, your people do not have to prospect, you went to the conference because you had marketing budget to blow. You normally have prospects lined up out the door, but you knew I was coming this morning, so cleared a path for me?
VP: No, no, our folks have to prospect, they need to make calls every day, I have them working the show leads now, those shows are expensive, I am always reviewing their activity, and we should be converting more of these leads, especially with our product.
TS: OK, but once you get in front of the prospect, it is smooth sailing, they get it, and want to switch or buy right away, no?
VP: I wish, we have to needs assessments, work through a bunch of data, and for sure three demos, sometimes more.
TS: But at that point, they just ask for the proposal, and away we go.
VP: Rarely, we have to help them maneuver internally, that’s why we end up doing multi demos, and data crunching, all the players involved.
TS: All laid out in your process, right?
VP: Not really, what we laid out should follow a different path.
TS: But once you present the proposal, it’s done, no back and forth, no negotiations, no price haggling.
VP: Are you kidding, even after all that, we still have to deal with that, all the ROI we show them, and we still go through that.
TS: So tell me again how you are different?