The first step in closing a deal is getting buyers to recognize a business problem. The second step is showing buyers their problem is worth fixing.
Those challenges are hard -- but salespeople have a third obstacle to overcome. They must help prospects understand why they are the best choice for the prospect’s business.
In a competitive market, standing out is a daunting task. Fortunately, these seven strategies will help reps differentiate themselves from the competition.
1) Don’t Talk About the Competition
Staying mum on their competitors might seem counterintuitive: After all, if the salesperson doesn’t explain why her prospect’s other options are inferior, how will hers rise to the top
But discussing the competition rarely works in the salesperson’s favor. If she criticizes them, she’ll come across as just another rep happy to sling mud. Refusing to engage, on the other hand, makes her seem more professional. She’ll also seem more confident in her product’s ability to sell itself.
2) Ask One Question at a Time
Reps often aim to thoughtful, relevant, open-ended questions -- only to sabotage themselves by asking two or three more questions before their prospect has a chance to open their mouths.
Buyers can only give one answer at a time. Not only are multi-part inquiries ineffective, they also feel overwhelming. If salespeople want to send prospects the message they’re different, they should stop talking after they’ve asked a single question.
3) Talk About Benefits, Not Features
It’s easy enough to tell prospects what a product does. Explaining how those functions will improve their lives is much harder -- and for that reason, fewer reps pull it off.
To successfully sell benefits rather than features, a salesperson must know their prospect’s goals, challenges, and processes. With this knowledge, he can craft a compelling narrative of how his product will alleviate their pain, improve their processes, help them achieve their goals, or all of the above.
4) Add Value With Every Interaction
Many salespeople recognize the importance of adding value to their prospects’ lives but struggle to consistently do it. There’s not always an obvious way to help buyers. And Even when reps can identify a clear opportunity to provide value, doing so takes time and energy.
As a result, some reps would rather skip helping altogether and hope their prospects buy regardless. That’s good news for salespeople who take an “Always Be Helping” approach, since it means they’ll stand out from their more selfish peers.
5) Be Yourself
To seem unique, salespeople must be themselves. Some reps are afraid to show their personalities or are unsure when it’s appropriate -- but prospects would rather work with someone relatable rather than a selling robot. Acting like a regular human puts buyers at ease and makes the interaction more enjoyable.
Reps can humanize themselves by expressing their true personalities, whether it’s through telling jokes, empathizing with their prospects, or sharing personal anecdotes.
For example, I recently heard this exchange between a salesperson and his prospect:
Prospect:“Do you know what an SDK is?”
Rep:“I don’t. I’m pretty clueless in all things except for sales and World War II history.”
Prospect:“Hahaha! Well, an SDK is … ”
After this joke, the rapport between the rep and his prospect was undeniably stronger. She willingly answered all of his questions and even cracked a few jokes herself.
While showing personality can be highly effective, salespeople should always maintain a degree of professionalism. Getting too personal or emotional will make reps stand out for all the wrong reasons.
6) Show Up On Time
Although being a few minutes late to a call or meeting might seem like no big deal, it is. Lateness suggests to prospects the rep values her time more than theirs. Minor tardiness alone might not kill a deal, but it certainly won’t help matters.
Let’s say two of the salespeople a buyer is working with consistently run a few minutes behind, while the third is always on time. The buyer will probably respect the punctual salesperson more -- which could be the tipping factor in his decision.
7) Become an Industry Expert
In sales, product knowledge is table stakes. To set themselves apart, reps need industry expertise. Knowing their prospect’s space inside and out enables salespeople to share unique, relevant insights. As a result, they’ll go from simple order-takers to trusted consultants.
Being well-versed in the industry also means prospects don’t need to waste any time explaining basic terminology or providing background knowledge.
Salespeople can become experts by reading news and thought pieces about their prospects’ verticals, forming relationships with other professionals, taking online courses or seminars on industry topics, listening to podcasts, and reading books.
If they’re not sure where to start, reps should ask their prospects for content recommendations. Not only will they get ideas straight from the source, prospects will be flattered by the request.
The modern buyer has plenty of choices. To win their prospect’s business, reps must do everything in their power to be different.
Originally published Oct 12, 2016 7:30:00 AM, updated January 20 2021