You’re the Difference
Joe was frustrated. He was tired of stalls and put-offs. He was tired of people telling him they could buy the same product for less money, tired of hearing about his product being just another commodity. He was beginning to get discouraged. At first glance it was hard to blame him. Seems like there are very few products on the market that are truly unique. Most automobiles will get you from A to B. Most air conditioning systems will keep your house cool. TVs, regardless of the brand, will all deliver the same insipid talking heads. So why pay more for one product than another? Shouldn’t you just find something that will do the job and then pay as little as possible for it?
Nope. In reality there are very few true commodities. There’s always some kind of difference between brands. Try feeding Pepsi to a Coke drinker! Try giving me one of those anemic butters from the grocery store instead of pure Irish Kerrygold butter! Is there really that much difference between Ford and Chevrolet? Between a Mac and a PC? Between NBC, CBS and ABC? Will a loyal viewer just switch from Fox News to CNN? That’s extremely unlikely. Real or imagined, we have preferences and we’ll pay more to accommodate those preferences.
People not only pay more for something they like, they pay extra for convenience. Use Starbucks for example. People pay as much as ten times more for a product they can brew at home. They will pay premium prices for cocktails or wine in a restaurant.
Look at what people pay for air travel: The workhorse aircraft of many of the major domestic carriers is the Boeing 737. Depending on the version and the airline, it has about 160 seats … 16 first class and another 144 in various configurations of economy. Regardless of the seat, every passenger arrives at the destination at the same time. The flight experience may differ slightly from one seat to another, but it’s all a variation of cattle car.
What does differ is the price that people pay for their seats. The options are staggering. From Portland, Oregon to Atlanta, Georgia you can fly bare bones economy for $249 this week. Or you can choose a multitude of “comfort” or “priority” options all the way up to first class. These upgrades can add anywhere from another $50 for priority boarding to $1,809 for first class. And people are willing to pay it. Same aircraft, same destination, same arrival time … huge difference in what people will pay.
Now take the so-called commodity Joe is selling and getting pushback on. What’s he doing wrong? Why is he having to deal with resistance? A big part of the problem is Joe’s mind set. He doesn’t believe what he’s selling is any better than his competitor’s offering. Therefore he’s immediately vulnerable. Let’s assume there is really little discernable difference between his product and someone else’s, why would someone buy it? Taking it a step further, why would someone pay more for it? Look back at the examples of what people pay for coffee or for airline travel. They’re willing to pay for service and/or perceived value. Joe has to differentiate himself from the others. He has to give his customers a reason to buy from him.
You’re the difference! You have to know what makes you a better fit for your customers. You can’t just be a little bit better than every other salesperson who walks through the door. You have to be a whole lot better. Anthony Iannarino, writing in The Sales Blog on March 10, put it very well. His post, Selling Better: A Thought Experiment, challenges salespeople to think about what they would change in order to improve. Read it and act on it. You’ll be better because of it.
Oliver Connolly coaches and mentors sales managers and sales professionals. For more information please go to http://www.clevelstrategic.com