Differences cause wars

I’m going out on a limb here and today I’m going to balance out the popular conviction that salespeople need to campaign on what makes them different when promoting themselves.  The question, what is your “differentiating value” may be leading you away from a sale, not towards it.

This notion that prospects make their decision on differences is a myth.  Most attributes in a decision are based on more similarities than differences.  In fact, differences infuse more risks for a prospect in making a switch or decision.

I strive to be similar to the most respected trainers in the world.  Imagine the smile on my face when someone says, “Oh, he is a lot like Jack Canfield, Harvey Mackay, Brian Tracy, and Zig Ziglar.”  This is a basic marketing tactic, the law of association – to be associated with a market leader and ‘like’ them.

Listing your selling proposition on what makes your product or service different, causes your solution to be fragmented in a time when prospects want simplicity.  Different does not necessarily mean better.

The sales process starts with bonding and building rapport.  Your goal is to be ‘like’ your prospect, so they feel comfortable with you.  This familiarity permits them to open up with share honest answers to your serious questions.  No trust, and you will hear misleading answers that put your prospect in the best light.

When we shop, we gravitate towards companies that share our beliefs.  If you are “green” you buy from companies that promote their commitment to the environment and use recycled materials.  If you want to support the USA you buy products made in America or you may even give greater consideration and buy from shops in your community.  Some women prefer to work with other women.  All similarities.

We offer recommendations and testimonials for our prospects to review, with the goal and anticipation they will have a similar experience – not different.  In our personal lives and professional careers, we have role models to emulate; to learn and apply how they would solve challenges, so we can have similar results and successes – not different.  We vote for people that appear to closely represent our beliefs.

Differences cause wars.  Look at the Middle East.  Watch the folks in our nation’s Capitol City.  They need to concentrate on similarities.  Christian denominations have more similarities than differences and those common beliefs should be accepted and celebrated more than discounted and debated.

When working with a prospect, work in collaboration against the difference; that is the challenge they are faced with.  Rage war on the problem and align yourself with the same goal as the prospect, to find the best solution with the most value (noticed I didn’t include price – see commodity selling).  This is also a great negotiation technique, when you align yourself on the same side as the solution, so the prospect is not working against you and the problem.

Lastly, I will share with you the question to ask when a prospect inquires, “What makes you different than so and so.”  Reply with, “I don’t want to assume you are going to make your decision on what makes us different or similar to your current supplier.  Let me ask you, when you are making a change, what is most important to you in selecting another provider?”

Now practice your active listening and target your response to the biggest influencing factors in the decision.  Ask them about the process they followed last time, because it is the same process they are going to put you through.  Ask them, who’s involved and about their timeline for implementation.

You may feel tempted to pontificate your differences, but if you do, you risk trading-in or minimizing a critical similarity to the prospect, thereby disqualifying yourself from any future conversations.

Lessons learned: It’s about them; and what they need and want.  Not what you have and offer.  Focus on them and the most important attributes involved in the decision. And you will have a better chance of hitting your target and helping your prospect.