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THE INFORMATION AGE is pushing many industries down the path of commoditization, where consumers don’t see much of a difference between you and your competitors, so their purchasing decisions become overly focused on price. This is a dangerous position for any company. This shift is due in large part to the depth of information available to prospects before a salesperson is even engaged, which has forever changed the role sales professionals play in closing a sale. Long gone are the days where sharing features and benefits is enough. Sales professionals must take on a more strategic role to maintain relevance, differentiate their brands, and add value to the sales process, shifting consumer decisions away from the price tag. Real, tangible value must be created to break through the barriers of commoditization, and it isn’t built on clichés like “great customer service.” Your differentiator must be significant and important to your customers. It might be a product or service differentiator, or it could very well be the unique, strategic insight offered by your sales team. A recent Huthwaite study uncovered an unexpected consumer behavior, shedding light onto how sales professionals can create value. Thousands of customers reported being faced with several competitor choices with no strong differentiators. Interestingly, customers did not select the low-cost offering in most instances. Skilled sales professionals offered insights that those buyers couldn’t see on their own, which is challenging given the depth of information a prospect can find online about a company before ever setting foot in the door. You have to convince prospects that you are strategically important and that other competitors are poor substitutes. What is your sales team doing to convince customers you are a vital strategic partner, one that is difficult to find in a crowded marketplace? If your sales team can’t clearly explain what makes your company different, you’re encouraging customers to focus more closely on prices, which could ultimately cause lower margins and make it difficult to cost-justify a skilled sales force. In short: many salespeople may be working themselves out of a job. Start solving this problem by asking the right questions. Customers place more value on what they have to say than anything you could tell them. With any new prospect, you must conduct a thorough needs assessment, asking high-impact questions that will help the prospect fully realize his needs. He may even find one that he hasn’t recognized before. Next, position yourself as an indispensable strategic partner by identifying an unanticipated solution for the buyer’s problem or revealing an unexpected opportunity the buyer didn’t know about. You could also establish yourself as a solutions broker, serving as a broader resource. Consider partnering with a non-competing vendor to offer your prospect a broader “soup to nuts” solution to his problem. When your objective is to create customized value, no two sales will look alike. While this strategy requires more effort, you are more likely to generate higher margins, building long-term relationships with customers who aren’t just price shopping.

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RedRover Sales & Marketing

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