Understanding the aspects of sales differentiation can easily help you close many more deals.
In this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, Darryl welcomes Lee Salz, CEO of Sales Architects, OutBound Conference Speaker, and revered sales consultant to discuss sales differentiation. Darryl and Lee will explain why the word “best” is overrated, and why you should swap it with “different”.
They also share how to make your prospects realize your offerings ARE the best without needing to say so, setting yourself apart from the other sales reps who offer the same solution, and identifying what your meaningful value is.
Daryl: How is everybody doing today? I am so pleased you're back... Every week we kind of start off the same routine, right? We greet each other and we say, how's your week been? This is how my week's been. It's very hospitable, isn't it? This little conversation we have every week. I love it personally. I know it's predictable. I know you're probably so conditioned that you just fast forward the first minute or two, do you do that a lot? I do it a lot. There's several shows that I listen to on a regular basis that I just, boom boom boom, and if I miss the first couple of little words or first 30 seconds, I'm okay with that. I want to get past all the hype. So if you're just tuning in now thinking that you've gotten past everything, surprise you haven't, but here we go. One of the things I want to talk about, I was having this conversation with some friends recently. It was this whole idea around actually product marketing. It wasn't a sales topic, and one of the biggest things that's in product marketing is this premise of... what is your product positioning statement, right? For lack of a better word. What is your product's unique value proposition? Said another way, how do you differentiate your product from anything else out there? How do you make that soundbite, that elevator pitch that makes your audience, when they're consuming this, whether that be in an email or in an advertisement or in a pay- per- click ad or on a trade show banner back wall as you walk down the aisle, make it jump off the page and make your prospect stop and go," Oh, that's interesting. Tell me more." And so we're having this whole conversation, debating who the thought leader's in it, we're bouncing different ideas back and forth off for them and their product, point them in the right direction, and that got me remembering back to a couple different points in my career. So I think back to my first job, remember it was selling copiers. We talked about this, and the whole point... where I would get flummoxed, where I would get caught off guard is when I was selling my copiers and the prospect would say," Well, how is your copier different from vendor A or different B or C?" Now I was a young pup fresh out of university, so I had no experience in life or business. My gosh, definitely not in business, and so..." well we've got these whizzbang features." That was always what I'd fall back on. Ours does duplex and theirs doesn't, or ours has better magnification, or ours has got higher dots per inch on the scan aspect than theirs does. So I'm falling back on features, and sometimes that's a legitimate differentiation, but for many of these people I'm selling copiers to that meant nothing to them. DPI, dots per inch, why do I care about that? See where I'm going with that? Why do I care about that? Like, why does it mean to me? And I didn't understand that. And you know, that happened multiple times over my career. When I got to VanillaSoft, same concept except there was already two category leaders, and that was SalesLoft and Outreach. So how do I differentiate from them? And I can tell you how we differentiate, and we absolutely do differentiate, but that falls into the next question of, but do they care? Even if you do differentiate, do they care? Does my prospect care? And this is what you struggle with because I bet you you're selling, and you're not alone in your category, in the markets that you sell into. I bet you have competition. So how do you differentiate? Can you articulate that? And more importantly, are you speaking the buyer's language, not features and functions, but why they care? For us I learned explain why they cared not because of features and functions, but because of their daily routine and how they operate, and I can quickly say," do you run your business this way? A, B, C, D, and E, or do you run it a different way?"" But we do it a different way."" Okay. Then you don't care about us. We're not a fit for you." Done. Leave. Yeah, I do it exactly as you said, A B C D and E, let's talk about my business. Okay, so this is how we differentiate. Cause the other vendors, they don't like you because they're designed for a different way. Let me explain why your way's right. Let me explain how we do it your way. To differentiate on our target markets, you know, we sell S& B, not enterprise. Our different industries, right? We sell to real- world industries that still use the phone for example, insurance, finance, healthcare, not just to high- tech. Differentiation allows people to go," Okay, I know what you do and I know where you fit, and I know whether you matter to me now or the future," and yet so many of us get it wrong. So this is a skill folks. This is something you got to understand when it comes to selling what you sell today or selling yourself for that next job tomorrow. So I said to myself, who is the best guy I know who can talk about differentiation, specifically sales differentiation, and if you don't know, I'm going to tell you right now that's Lee Salz, all right? Lee Salz authored five best- selling books, his latest, Sales Differentiation, all right? 19 powerful strategies to win more deals at the prices you want. All right, he's a rockstar, five books. He himself is a leading sales management strategist. He's the founder of sales architects and the revenue accelerator, and I'm telling you this cat has helped hundreds of companies experience explosive growth through the migration of their sales team from people- based to process- based. He specializes in helping clients build world- class sales forces through the development of strategies and processes that companies need to win more deals at the prices they want, and that's where differentiation comes in. Lee, how you doing my friend?
Lee Salz: Great Daryl. How are you?
Daryl: I'm doing well. Now we're about to hook up you and I. I don't mean hookup in the relational sense, but I'm going to see you shortly in Atlanta. Is that not correct? At the Outbound conference.
Lee Salz: That's right. Now Daryl, our listeners may be wondering, there's literally thousands and thousands of speakers out there. They may be wondering why Lee Salz was selected to speak at Outbound. So you want me to tell you?
Daryl: I do want, tell me why my friend!
Lee Salz: I'm the best sales consultant in the world.
Daryl: You see what he's doing there folks? crosstalk He's laying down the differentiation. Okay, you're the best sales... I'm sorry... not that I don't believe you, but how can you say that?
Lee Salz: Let Daryl Feddering, Daryl, I'm going to ask you straight up. Give me a one word descriptor of me based on that introduction as the best sales consultant in the world. What do you think of me? One word.
Lee Salz: And that's actually pretty nice. Usually I get arrogant, cocky, full of themself. None of them are positive descriptors, are they?
Daryl: No, not ideal. I was going to say confident, but yeah, cocky is also in the back of my mind.
Lee Salz: People say that, but what they're really thinking are the negative ones, and if any of our listeners were thinking some of those same descriptors, here's my question for you. Why do you think your prospects and clients feel any differently about you than you feel about me at this moment when you come marching in saying my company, my products, my services are the best. They don't. They feel exactly the same way about you, that you feel about me at this moment. Why? Because we can't prove it. I can't prove to you that I'm the best sales consultant in the world. And I'm sure you can't prove your company, your products and services are the best in the world either. So why go there? All we do is tarnish the relationship unnecessarily right in the first few moments. So we got to get out of the business of using that word best and position different in a meaningful way. This comes back something Daryl you said before, it's not just different, it's meaningfully different so that our buyers see our solutions the best without us ever saying the word.
Daryl: So there's a lot of places I can go with this, and I want to get your opinion.
Lee Salz: Any place you like.
Daryl: Well, I'm torn, I'm being candid with you because there's two sides of me. There's one is you're right, and how do I not sound bold, cocky? How do I not sound wishy- washy, you know whatever, as it relates to what I am offering to the marketplace, but then there's the other side I'm actually really curious about as a human side, is how do I differentiate me as a sales rep counseling you versus those other two or three sales reps from other vendors who are simultaneously counseling you.
Lee Salz: That's a great question. So I dedicated a chapter in Sales Differentiation to personal value differentiation. I don't care if you've been in sales three months or 30 years, there's value that you bring to the table, but Darryl, I'll tell you, I find that most salespeople never take a step back and identify what their personal true meaningful value is, and if you don't know what it is, you can't possibly position it in a meaningful way. So you're right, it's tremendously important that salespeople A recognize what it is and then takes the steps to position it in a meaningful way.
Daryl: All right. So let's go down that road. So let's do two things I want to do. I want to know... I'm totally putting you on the spot here. Are there lines, cliche, examples that you can show me if you've ever said this, if you do this, you don't know your differentiation. That's the first part, and the second part I want to know is how do I go about determining my differentiation?
Lee Salz: Great great point. I'm going to start with the second part first. How do you determine what your differentiators are. So there's a couple of workshops that I talk about in sales differentiation, but you don't need to read the book to be able to take advantage of them. The first is a competitor analysis. Identify your biggest competitors and put together two sides of a page, why you win and why they win, and inaudible can be on either side of the ledger. After you've done that make a list of the decision influencers that you engage with. Decision influencers are anyone and everyone who affected the decision to buy what you sell. Again, two sides of a page. What is it that's keeping them awake at night that you can address, and the other side is how can you address it? You take those two exercise, you take the content from the why you win side, the synergy side of the decision influencers, which is how you can help address their concerns. Guess what? You're well on your way to identifying what your meaningful differentiators are. But I'll tell you now, here's a key here. It's one thing to have differentiators. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I've talked with executives and salespeople that say," Oh, we should never have to fight over price. We should never be discounting." And then I look at their sales report. Loss due to price, dropped price to unacceptable levels, discount, discount, discount. Why? Because they're unable to get someone on the other side of the desk just as excited as they are about their differentiators, and if you can't do that, you may as well not have them, because Daryl what's the only conversation you're going to have? Price. That's all that's left.
Daryl: Well it's funny. So true story, you know, when I do these wonderful interviews on this podcast we call the Inside Inside Sales Show, I keep massive notes because my guests, like what you're doing right now, you drop truth bombs, and I'm going to come back to them. At the same time though, I also do my own little commentary. So you started off saying, now I want you to grab a piece of paper and I have two sides on this side, do this and decide to do that, and as you were doing this I wrote down, price is the only differentiator people tend to know because that's what I see over and over again. They don't know how to differentiate and they instantly fall back to price. Well, I'm cheaper, and it comes to the point, the reality is when you discount so much, what you get is what you deserve, which are people who only buy based on price and they become the worst clients ever and will often churn. Price is the last way you want to differentiate. We talk about this all the time. We talk about setting value upfront.
Lee Salz: Yes, and the deal you win on price today is the client you lose tomorrow for the same reason.
Daryl: Yes, Yes, exactly. And the numbers bear it out. I mean, I challenge everybody listening to this call, go back and talk to the people in your organization, whether it's finance or operations, if they've done their churn analysis, and you're going to see that the highest churn are the ones who negotiate the hardest on the price. Guarantee it.
Lee Salz: And they're the most difficult to satisfy as clients.
Daryl: Yeah ask support, they'll tell you the exact same thing.
Lee Salz: They'll squeeze resources, squeeze you to death. Absolutely.
Daryl: All right, so how do we differentiate? I mean, you talked about the two grids, you know, why you versus why the competition, you know, what's keeping them awake and how can you help them those issues. So walk me through maybe a scenario like that, that you can help me understand if I was to do... Like, for example... let's do VanillaSoft versus whomever. All right. So why me versus the competition? I'm going to say, why me? I have month to month contracts, they have annual. So therefore more flexibility. I'm just going through top, you know, through all the usual stuff. They are lists based, which means you can cherry pick and we serve the best lead one at a time based on what we call the queue. So, and I can carry on, and we're good for top down organizations where sales managers say," This is what you shall do. Go do it." They're better for bottom up where they let the reps have freedom. So those are three points right there. If I said that to you, do I know my differentiation? Or am I totally blowing it?
Lee Salz: All right. So let me go back a step. I'm going to ask you a question. I've asked this question of salespeople in every industry you can name in every country around the world, B2B, B2C business to government, and every single time I've received the same answer. So Daryl, let's see if we get the same one. Ready?
Daryl: Nope. I hate when this... Okay folks, we may edit this out because I don't like it. I'm just giving you a hard time. Go for it, Lee.
Lee Salz: Think you're going to get this right. Who knows more about the world of potential solutions in your industry, you or the people you sell to?
Daryl: Oh, the people we sell to. See, I got it wrong. You said no, okay.
Lee Salz: You're the first one ever.
Daryl: Let's have the argument. Let's have the argument.
Lee Salz: Who knows more about the world of potential solutions in your industry? You or the people you're selling to?
Daryl: Yeah, I know you're saying and I still... I know exactly what you're saying because it's my industry I should know my space better than anybody else, including my competition, but the reason I actually said... them, it doesn't mean I'm right, but this is why I said it is because here's the difference. I know my tech or my services, but they know their processes and their issues, and they've already been doing a lot of research and they've iterated on multiple solutions that I'm not part of.
Lee Salz: Correct, but they don't know all the possibilities of potential in your industry. They know their world and they know the potential and the limitations.
Daryl: Yes, they know their world.
Lee Salz: They don't know your world at the level that you do.
Daryl: Right, I'll agree with that.
Lee Salz: And so at first we know more than they do. There's a couple of things we have to keep in mind. Number one, I believe if you're in sales, you have an obligation to help people make an informed buying decision, but because they don't know what we know about our industry, we have an opportunity to shape buyer decision criteria, but there's finesse in how we do it. You know, the first thing when you were telling me about your differentiators, the first thing you said is what's going to throw you off track, is you said what I'm going to say is, and I'm going to guess you nor our listeners want to be lectured. Right? You don't like to be lectured do you?
Daryl: You nailed that part, agreed. Yes.
Lee Salz: Okay. So what we have to do is develop positioning questions. That's what I refer to them as. And I talk in, in great detail in the book and how to do it. This is a question that is missing from most salespeople's repertoire. See, we ask questions, challenge questions, pain questions, that expose aspects that they perceive could be better or different than what they have today, but if you're with me that we know more about the world of potential solutions in our industry than the people we're selling to, we can't just rely on their perceptions because they don't know these other opportunities exist. So positioning questions are open- ended questions, they're non- yes- no, that map back to your differentiators, designed to spark interest in a conversation about them. And Daryl, want me to give you an example? So I live in Minnesota and Minnesota has a lot of screwiness, a lot of idiosyncrasies, and I'll give you one. In just about every county in Minnesota, every homeowner, every business contracts for their own trash removal. That's rare, right? I'm guessing Daryl, you don't do it. Your city or county does it.
Daryl: That's very rare, yes.
Lee Salz: Right. So on Wednesday mornings, there is a parade of garbage trucks coming down my street representing every hauler you could name cause everybody hires who they want to hire, and somehow they synchronize this for 7: 00 AM, and each one of these trucks seemingly does the same thing, pulls up to the home arm, comes out, grabs the can, dumps the contents into the truck, puts the can back down, truck drives away and you get a bill at the end of the month. Well, the CEO of one of these companies reaches out to me, says Lee, I believe we're meaningfully different. I believe we have value that my competition does not. And I believe my salespeople are ineffective at positioning it. Now I was intrigued because I got a home office. So I see the parade every Wednesday going by, and it all looks the same to me, but they went through a sales differentiation program with me, and that CEO was right on all counts. They did have meaningful differentiators and their salespeople were completely ineffective at positioning them, and one of those differentiators is a truck called a can be clean truck. Only ones in the state of Minnesota that have this truck. Twice a year this truck follows the garbage truck and cleans your garbage cans, and that's included in their service and the only ones that offer it. Well, their residential salespeople are used to dealing with people like me who think all these companies are offering the same service, so the only conversation I'm interested in having is save me a nickel I'll switch to you, right? So we developed a positioning question for those residential salespeople, and it was a question for them to ask just after they introduced themselves, and the question is this. When's the last time you had your garbage cans cleaned? Because we know they never have, unless they've done it themselves. Daryl, have you ever had to clean your garbage cans?
Daryl: I have never had to do it... but no, yeah, I know exactly what you're saying.
Lee Salz: It's certainly not pleasurable.
Daryl: Yeah, it's not pleasurable, it's the recycling bins that get to be disgusting, so correct, I understand.
Lee Salz: Yes, and they clean those too. And think about what we've done. We've helped someone think differently about something as simple as a trash solution. Not because of something we've said, but rather a question that we've asked." Yeah, why isn't someone cleaning my garbage cans?" Now if we just relied on challenge or pain questions and we asked something like," What are three things you'd like to have that you don't have today?" No one would say I'd love it if someone cleaned my garbage cans because they don't know it exists, and that's why we need these positioning questions to spark interest in a conversation about our differentiators instead of us just getting on a soap box and lecturing on how wonderful they are.
Daryl: And the funny part of what you just said. My immediate reaction listening to that opening line is not only would I be intrigued, but I'd actually be willing to pay a premium for that. Because in my mind, the garbage collection itself is commodity, right? Whether it's your automated arms picking up my can or the next guys' they're going to do the same thing, but for the same price or even a few nickels more, you're going to wash my can? I'm going to pay for that, and gladly pay for that.
Lee Salz: And guess what? They had 10 other differentiators to position. So once you got engaged in conversation about that, they had a whole host of others that helped to justify the price point, and after we put this in place with their salespeople their price per deal skyrocketed.
Daryl: I imagine... everyone loved that too because all of a sudden they were better equipped and they were having completely different conversations that weren't price- based.
Lee Salz: Absolutely, and you don't need to wait for your sales manager or the business owner to do anything to start developing position questions and putting it into practice, the company doesn't have to do anything for you. If you buy into this concept, there's a five step process that you can go through once you've identified a differentiator to come up with a communication strategy for it. So the first thing you do is ask yourself, why should someone even care about this particular differentiator? Why does it matter to them? I call it relevancy. The second question to ask yourself is who is going to care about it? Because not everyone's going to care about all of your differentiators, Daryl, this is a point you made a few moments ago. The third question to ask yourself is when is it going to matter? I call those symptoms, something that you may observe, something they may say, something you may learn in your pre- call research that says to you," Ah, a conversation about this differentiator is truly going to hit the mark." The next step is to put together a positioning question. The positioning question is designed to connect back to the relevancy. So we answer the question. We identified why this matters to that individual. This question is designed to help them see that they should care about this differentiator. And then the final step is once the door is open, what are the message points, the discussion points that you want to share now that you have a receptive audience.
Daryl: Okay, so this is done on my end. Because you said a couple things, and what I love... let me focus exactly what jumped out at me. A couple of things. Whenever I write an article, an ebook, a blog, whenever I have a conversation with a prospect, you know, I kind of start off my conversation, exactly what you're saying is, you know, why should somebody care that relevancy question? That's how you open a blog. That's how you should open an email, ironically, right? Or have a conversation. And then you go to talk about it. Exactly what you're saying, and then you're done, the blog, the ebook, the phone conversation, you're going to circle back and close the loop on that and remind them that's how we began, and let me connect the dots for you. That's just writing, selling 101. So that's the first thing that you said," Why should somebody care? What's the relevancy." That is so huge. What I loved was when you said," When is it going to matter?" And you said that's their symptoms. And to me, this is just discovery, right? You're drilling down at when is it going to matter? I mean, I think Lee's one word... I love it. Symptoms. Right? That's gold. But then what does he do? He comes back to that ebook, which is put it together with a positioning question. In other words, you're cutting it back to the relevancy, isn't that what we just talked about? Writing a blog, doing a sales script, the whole nine yards, and then finally we talk all the time about you have to establish a value, right? But that's hard to do, and you're like," Where do I start?" And Lee just nailed it for you. He says, after you've done those four items, what are the discussion points that you want to share? And this is the goal. This is what we all just beg and plead for. Now that you have a receptive audience, okay, anybody here listening, if you do not want a receptive audience to whatever you have to say, just stop the podcast now. Are you still here? Of course you are, and if you're not, you're a stupid salesman. So there we go. So I love this point and this point is something we should all care about. Now your book actually talks about, I think the whole point was 19 strategies to win more deals at the prices you want, and so now it all makes sense, right? Because I'm thinking, the first time I read that it's like," Yeah well we all want it at a certain price. Why you call that out?" Tell me if I'm right when I say this, you're calling that out because the only way we can differentiate, if we don't do this is based on price, which is the deals we don't want. So here's how you do it at the price you want.
Lee Salz: Yes. So there's a second component here that we should also talk about. If you find that you're constantly in price battles, I ask that you take a step back and revisit your target client profile..." What's that? I call it an ideal client profile." Well, I don't, and here's the fundamental difference. In my mind, if I say to you," Here's the ideal client profile. This is the one in a million, if you come across it we'd love to have that opportunity."
Daryl: Yeah, it's perfect.
Lee Salz: So I call it a target client profile, and this is designed to give salespeople clarity on the type of businesses seek every day and addresses who's going to see value in what we provide, and you may very well find that part of the reason why you're in a price battle is you're going after opportunities that don't fit your business. That they're never going to see the value. It's not that there's a price issue, that they don't have the needs, challenges, desires that your solution addresses. Therefore, I'm just going to squeeze you on price. So gaining clarity on your target client profile, and again, there's a chapter in sales differentiation on how to put that together. That's the foundation point, so if you connect that with, okay, now I understand what our value is and I've created these positioning questions to help someone understand our value. Now you're well on your way to differentiating yourself and winning the deal at the prices you want.
Daryl: All right, now I want to throw a twist to You. I know we're tight on time, but we've been talking about price and I contend there's also a different way to differentiate. If you're always falling back on price, to your point, you need to revisit your target client profile, and I really like that definition of target versus ideal because I think you're right, and by doing that you're positing and then the price becomes secondary or not relevant because you've now got a better client profile that better suits you and fits you and therefore price is no longer an issue. I would also contend it doesn't just apply to price. It can also apply to reputation or brand. And what I mean by that, and we've talked about this before on the show is often every major category of software or services or products usually has one or two leaders, Coke and Pepsi, IBM and Microsoft, right? Then you get the idea GM and Ford. So if you're that third or fourth or fifth player in the market, then if all things are equal, your differentiation is not great and your price is the same, then they're always going to go with the vendor who they know more, hear more, trust more, because they must be more successful so it must be a better product, even though often it's not. So again, it's not just price, you got to also be the category in and your position within that category, which would prompt you to go to a different target client profile, where you can own your own defined niche and become the category leader. So you can be a niche within a niche, for example, and that way you own it, you own it well, that's differentiation. Is that a fair point?
Lee Salz: Very fair.
Daryl: All right. I love it. We're out of time. Lee, what are you going to be talking about at Outbound?
Lee Salz: We're going to be talking sales differentiation, differentiating what you sell and how you sell.
Daryl: Okay, so folks, this is like a crash course, all right? So there's two things you need to do. One, need to go buy the book, all right? Go to Amazon and just look it up, Sales Differentiation, and by the way if you love this he's got a new book coming out in September called sell different, so stay tuned for that, all right? So reach out to Lee, follow him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter, all right? Sales architects, and the website is also salesarchitects. com, but it's Lee Salz on LinkedIn. So just go right there, follow him, don't be stupid, but go to outbound, sign up. Whether you're live and in person, which is where I'll be and Lee will be, or there virtually, you don't want to miss this content. This is the guy you want to go because he's going to make all your pricing challenges go away. Folks, that's Lee Salz. Today was about sales differentiation. It is so critical to your success. Buy the book, sign up now or better yet, tune in next week where we do it all over again on the Inside Inside Sales Show. Take care, we'll talk to you soon.