According to Theodore Levitt, a Harvard Business School professor, “The purpose of a business is to find and keep customers and to get existing buyers to continue doing business with you rather than your competitors.” I couldn’t agree more.
Everything Has Become a Commodity
In the old days of selling the best way to get customers was to have the best products at the best prices. That is still important but in a much more competitive world, the benchmarks for products and price are rapidly being met by many of your competitors. Pick any industry and you will find products, services and prices all beginning to look alike and blur together. To the customer, even salespeople all tend to look alike. They ask the same questions, wear the same clothes, write the same proposals and make the same promises. From the customer’s point of view there isn’t much differentiation out there.
Buyers Are Confused
Step back and look at the relationship between buyer and seller and how it has changed as the world has become more competitive. With more options that look alike and are sold alike, buyers make decisions to go with one product or another on the basis of what difference is left: price and convenience. Customers tend to buy the best price and most convenient arrangement from the options presented. (I didn’t say sold.)
Because salespeople are not very good at differentiating themselves from the competition, buyers simply make a transactional buying decision. In a transactional relationship the customer simply gets an order taker not a professional salesperson.
In the final analysis we have to realize that the traditional process of calling on customers, quoting prices and pitching the product is dead. It has been replaced by a new paradigm that sees professional salespeople as business partners or trusted advisors. If you want to survive and compete, quit pitching product and price and learn how to present yourself as a business partner or trusted advisor. Many companies and salespeople have yet to realize this. As a result, they will be left in the dust.
What differentiates you from your competitors? What is your Unique Selling Proposition? If you struggle with answering these questions clearly and compellingly you are nothing more than a commodity in the eyes of your buyers.