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Sales Differentiation by Lee B. Salz

It is just not about what you sell, but how you sell it.

Selling is an often-discussed topic. I could fill these pages with micro pontifications such as, “Nothing happens until a sale is made” or “ABC: Always Be Closing.” I have attended and delivered numerous sales seminars and read more sales books than I can count. And yet I am still looking for the next master thesis, the ultimate sales road map, a guide to the perfect sales conversation. I will not claim to have found sales nirvana, but this month’s selection is definitely on that path.

Lee Salz has distilled an inordinate amount of sales wisdom into a very digestible format that truly impressed me and reorganized the sales process in my mind. Salz has written several bestsellers, including Hire Right, Higher Profits, which became the number one sales management book in 2014. He is frequently sought by the media for interviews on sales and sales management issues. He has been quoted and featured in The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, MSNBC, ABC News, and several other media outlets. On top of that, he is a world-class power lifter. What’s not to like?

Salz speaks right to my own experience. As a lifelong salesperson, it was always my desire to present a product that was different than the competition. Better, faster, stronger, more durable…anything that would set it apart from everything else out there. However, every salesperson presents their wares as “the best” — so often that potential buyers simply don’t believe a word of it and price becomes the only differentiator. This is where the book begins.

The solution: don’t just differentiate what you sell, but how you sell as well. Become the ultimate sales consultant. When you say you or your product is the best, prove it. Give real-world examples and data that back up your claims. Even state, “I know everyone makes this claim, but today I’m going to show you the differences we offer and let you make the decision.” Who is going to argue with that?

Also in the Business Book Club: The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

Chapter after chapter unveils another truism that adds to the concept. In chapter 5, Salz describes the Sales Differentiation Universe and the six components thereof.

  • THE COMPANY – Financial viability and history
  • THE PEOPLE — Experience, certifications, key players
  • THE PRODUCTS — Manufacturer choices, technologies, and selection process
  • SERVICE — Support process, dependability
  • TECHNOLOGY — Specific details that matter to the individual
  • CONTRACT — Terms, warranties, assurances

Take these elements and apply them to both you and your competitors. Why are you different and thereby a better choice for your client?

The differentiators cannot be processed, canned, and poured out onto every client. They need to be customized for every potential situation. A section on the art of query explains how to ask questions that set up the differences you will present. Many clients have little or no experience with the products and services you provide. Asking the right questions will expose their needs, allowing you to present solutions to problems they didn’t even know existed. Imagine asking, “What did we talk about today that was different from what you expected we would talk about?”

Also in the Business Book Club: Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Chapter 15 details the proposal process. Refuse to provide a proposal without first being able to ask critical questions. Clients who collect proposals tend to focus on price first, and you will lose the tactical advantage created by your expertise and experience.

Every sales process offers methods for dealing with objections. Salz states that allowing a customer to raise objections allows them to control the conversation. Present common objections before they have the opportunity to do so and proactively address them.

Price is a common objection, and it can derail the most effective presentation. Consider something such as, “I’ll tell you upfront that we are never the lowest price for this, yet we have over a thousand clients who see the value in what we have to offer. Today, I’ll share with you differences our clients appreciate and you can decide if those differences are meaningful to you.”

This book is aggressive and not for those who want to casually advance their sales acumen. However, should you want to dramatically change your sales direction, this is certainly an option. Constantly changing and improving your sales process will reinvigorate your sales team and increase their performance level. Nothing happens until a sale is made. Salz’s insights are invaluable, if that is your intention.

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