Written by: Brian Jeffrey, CSP
Here's one of the great truths of selling - if prospects can't tell the difference between your product or service and your competitor's product or service, they'll make their buying decision on price.
Now, this isn't the only reason for the price objection coming up but it's a major one. It's absolutely amazing how many salespeople don't or can't differentiate their company, product, or service from their major competitor. Want proof?
Stump the Salesperson
Try this test the next time you're considering a purchase. Ask the salesperson, "Why should I buy from you?" Don't be surprised if the person breaks into a foreign language that sounds something like this, "Um, uh, I, we, oh, let me see, ah, we, well um…" Most salespeople simply aren't equipped to answer this fundamental question. And if they don't know why you should buy from them, how can they expect you to know?
When I asked that question of a salesperson some time ago, I got the jaw-dropping response, "Because I need the business." Now there's a reason for someone to buy!
Effective Sales Tools
There are a couple of sales tools you should be equipped with in order to avoid getting caught with your mental pants down. The first of these tools is a Unique Selling Proposition or USP, often called an elevator pitch because you should be able to tell it to someone in the time it takes for a ten-floor elevator ride (with no stops between floors!).
The second tool is a Differential Competitive Advantage or DCA. The DCA is used to differentiate you and your company from each of your major competitors, sort of a mini-USP directed towards a particular competitor.
Let's take a closer look at these two tools.
The USP is a short paragraph that gives your prospect a compelling reason to do business with you. The USP should mention things you do or offer that your competitors can't or don't.
Here is an example of a typical USP for a sales training company (that we highly recommend):
"SalesForce Training & Consulting brings over 30 years of real-life, practical selling experience into the training room. We offer one of the broadest ranges of sales training programs available in Canada today. Our size and flexibility allows us to customize or tailor these programs to meet our client's specific needs. We train sales professionals to make a difference to themselves, the sales profession, and to their organization's bottom line."
Apart from the last sentence, which is a bit motherhood and apple pie, everything else in that USP is intended to contrast the company with their major competitors.
Now remember, your USP should be a statement that you can support, and must promise only what you can deliver or fulfil.
The Differential Competitive Advantage or DCA, on the other hand, is less general in nature and usually designed to contrast you and your services with those of a particular competitor or class of competitor. For example, let's assume you're up against a competitor who's a lot larger than you and your prospect mentions their name to you. You might say:
"They have a good reputation. One thing that makes us different is our size. Because we're smaller than they are, we tend to be more agile and can more easily adjust and accommodate the needs of our clients."
On the other hand, let's assume you're up against a much smaller competitor. You might say:
"They have a good reputation. One thing that makes us different is our size. Because we're much larger than they are, we have the ability to get the job done without straining our resources."
The magic of the DCA is that it gives the prospect a reason to buy from you. Keep in mind that you don't have to be better than your competitor, just different.
Remember, if prospects can't tell the difference between you and your competition, they'll make their buying decision based on price.
Build Your Own
Smart salespeople make a list of their competitors and then come up with one or two differences or things they do better than each of them. They commit the list to memory so when a prospect asks, "Why should I buy from you?" they don't stammer around like a lovesick teenager asking someone out on a first date.
Avoid generalizations when you're developing your DCAs. Only use things like we provide good service or… we have everything in inventory for fast delivery or… we have the lowest prices, etc, if it's true and your competitor can't say the same things. The competition probably also feels they have good service and great prices.
Back to your USP for a moment. A fast way to build a strong USP is to string together a series of your DCAs into one paragraph.
A salesperson without a DCA and USP is like a carpenter without a hammer and saw, or an auto mechanic without a set of wrenches — not well equipped and certainly not as effective as he or she could be. So don't get caught with an empty sales toolbox. Develop your DCAs and USP today.
The right tools in the right hands can make a real difference and these simple concepts can help you do that. Go for it!
About The Author
Brian Jeffrey is President of Salesforce Assessments Ltd. His company works with sales managers who want to make the right hiring decisions and build a strong sales team. For more articles like this and your free copy of "The 8 Biggest Hiring Mistakes Sales Managers Make" go to www.SalesforceAssessments.com.