• The DNA of Differentiation

    Take a moment and try this: Search for “sales conversations” on Google, and see how many results you get. I bet it’s nine figures. My own search produced 109 million results. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of opinions about what makes a good sales conversation. That’s no surprise, because improving the value of sales conversations is a top goal for every single client we serve.

    With good reason; it’s widely acknowledged that the makeup of an effective sales conversation has changed since customers and prospects have been able to consume more information digitally before a seller is engaged. That means salespeople are walking into meetings and conversations without the benefit of knowing their starting points, and the navigation is  anything but easy.

    In fact, IDC discovered in its research on the customer experience that more than 50% of salespeople were showing up to meetings unprepared. And Forrester Research reported that  just 15% of executives believe sales meetings meet their expectations.

    Stats like these have us wondering how our  work as marketers and sales enablers contributes to such low marks from customers. After all, we’ve all been focused on improving seller conversations, so it can’t be in the tools they use, right?

    Wrong.

    Too many companies are still doing “random acts of sales enablement” which, frankly, do not improve the customer’s experience with your salespeople or your company in a sustainable way. Even the companies that believe they’ve implemented “best-in-class” enablement processes and tools are challenged to prove that they are moving the needle in any significant manner.

    Why is this such a struggle for so many? Go back and take a look at the top hits of your Google search. Each article and blog post likely presented a similar theme on how to make sales conversations better:

    • Uncover pains.
    • Identify goals.
    • Visualize improvement.
    • Show outcomes.
    • Use questions.
    • Use number plays.
    • Use proof points.
    • Use better visuals.
    • Appeal to the left brain.
    • Don’t forget the right brain.
    • etc.

    To me, it seemed as though most authors were focused on conversation architecture. A few offered techniques to serve up positioning and solution statements in response to prescribed customer need. Not one of them actually shared  how to make a conversation truly different and unique.

    No one is focused on the DNA of differentiation.

    As reference, in a recent conversation with a valued client and VP of Sales Enablement, she shared that their customers were complaining that the introductory conversations being offered by salespeople across several different vendors presenting to them looked/sounded painfully similar. “Let’s talk about how we can help you reduce costs, manage risks, and improve service to your customers.” In an industry where we are all starting to sound identical (especially at high, introductory levels) and in an economy where we are all chasing the same budget dollars, what is it that separates true market leaders and their best-in-class salespeople from everyone else?

    Answer: A truly unique point of view.

    I don’t mean POVs. Every company we know is producing POVs out of their marketing and sales enablement teams.  But, sadly, they are most often neither unique NOR a point of  view.  Meaning, salespeople forced to present a canned POV often do not bring truly differentiated insight from your company as part of their story.

    The POV  I’m referring  to is about invention and innovation. It’s about experience and your ability to deliver. These are game-changing conversations. They are discussions that make customers think and ask you for more. They challenge or validate thinking. They engage.

    When I explore the topic of value conversation creation with clients, my favorite question to ask is,“Where does true differentiation come from?”

    Quite simply, without creating true differentiation, you cannot create conversations of real value.

    My next blog will show you how to create a truly unique point of view, and then how to carry that brilliance into a strategy that brings marketing and sales together in a way you’ve never done before.

    Stay tuned for the DNA of Differentiation, Part 2.

    In the meantime,  where do you think true differentiation comes from? I welcome your thoughts.

    Jody Canavan is Owner of Launch International.  Jody uses her experience in marketing and messaging at Launch International to define and build sales enablement programs that produce results. To read all blogs published by Launch International click here.

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