By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®
If sellers are unfamiliar with a vendor they are competing with some companies have competitive analysis groups to help with positioning. They often arm sellers with “knock-offs” (specific features they feel are advantages). The danger of this approach is two-fold:
- The differentiators are the opinions of the vendor, not necessarily the buyers’
- Focusing on a handful of features can interfere with sellers doing a good job of selling their offerings
Today’s reality is that development times and product cycles are getting compressed. Professor Rita Gunther McGrath of Columbia Business School has written books on the subject and indicates that long-term sustainable competitive product advantages are the exception rather than the rule.
Even if a vendor enjoyed a product advantage, it would be hard to leverage it when calling at very high levels. Consider a seller calling on a CFO to sell a hosted CRM offering. I’d venture to say that as sellers climb the ladders of prospect organizations the calls should become less product-intense. The calls four CRM vendors would make on a CFO would sound hauntingly similar. Few executive buyers will tolerate sellers getting granular about product differences.
So what IS a differentiator?
One of the few sustainable competitive advantages is providing superior buying experiences for executive buyers. This can be achieved by doing these six (6) things:
- Discovering business outcomes they would like to achieve
- Helping them understand why outcomes are difficult to achieve in their current environment
- Presenting only the capabilities relevant to address the barriers to achieving the goal
- Establishing value
- Empowering buyers to achieve the desired goal(s)
- Integrating the executive’s buying process with the vendor’s selling process
It used to be that if all things were fairly equal (price, product, etc.) the better salesperson would win the lion’s share of opportunities. Today I believe vendors (website, messaging and sales approach) that provide superior buying experiences are most likely to prevail.