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Fleeting Differentiators

Sales Training Article: Fleeting Differentiators

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company

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improve sales performanceOrganizations strive to develop sustainable advantages in their offerings. Overnight, a company enjoying differentiators can have the tables turned by a competitor’s announcement. Shorter shelf lives of differentiators and product life cycles have implications for sales organizations.

In her new book The End of Competitive Advantage, Rita Gunther McGrath says top line revenue strategies built upon long-term differentiators are becoming more difficult to execute and may become irrelevant in the future. The trend of shorter product cycles shows no signs of slowing. Companies that develop sales strategies around having differentiators may face rude awakenings.

McGrath’s view is that organizations must forge new paths to winning: capture opportunities fast, exploit them decisively, and move on with new strategies or approaches before the current ones run their courses. CEO’s that recognize the pitfalls of relying upon product advantages are likely to look to new strategies to achieve business plans.

Problems arise if senior executives create strategies that assume employees have the requisite competencies to execute them. Skill and knowledge gaps can undermine otherwise brilliant strategies. Consider the challenges companies face in migrating from product sales. It’s a radical change to have sellers focus on business outcomes first and then determine what specific parts of their offerings can help buyers achieve their desired outcomes. The success the first CCS® client had in migrating from hardware to workflow sales is available here for your reference.

Companies strive to offer the best products at the best price. While this is an admirable goal, even if it were possible to achieve, success isn’t guaranteed. If price and product are roughly equal (+/- 10%), I’ll place my bet on a seller that does “outcome based selling” by executing the following steps:

  • Gain access to Key Players
  • Learn the business outcomes (goals) each Key Player wants to achieve
  • Do diagnoses to help each buyer see barriers that stand in the way of achieving outcomes
  • Articulate capabilities that address the barriers
  • Establish value and a compelling cost vs. benefit
  • Negotiate a Sequence of Events with the buying committee that maps out activities and estimated dates that lead up to making a formal recommendation

Implementing sales process isn’t easy. Organizations that are successful in doing so can capture and share “A Player” best practices. Ultimately they make the way their salespeople sell a competitive advantage. By doing so, the impact of the ebb and flow of product advantages on top line revenue is more easily managed.


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