By Guy Aston, Mid-Market Business Director, Huthwaite International

In my previous article in this newsletter Power In Negotiations, I referred to effective selling as a process that facilitates in helping the customer to understand that the seller’s solutions can bring value to their business. I use the term ‘facilitates’ quite deliberately because the seller spends much of the time asking smart questions of the customer – guiding them through the process. So how does the seller know what smart questions to ask?

In order to answer that question, let’s look at exactly what it is that we are selling and what value we can bring to the customer? If you find yourself constantly competing on price, you may find the following food for thought.

I have said that the aim of the seller is to bring value to the customer, but if we bring the same value as other potential solution providers does that help us much? I suggest not, for if we all offer the same, the only differentiator between us is the price. Ideally, we would all like the customer to value a unique solution, and that unique solution be ours! Therefore, the first step is to be very clear about what is unique about what you are selling.

Try to think creatively about the features of your product or services that might separate you from other supplier’s offerings. It might well be several of these features that combine to make you a different. It may be a clear product attribute that is different, but it could be something a little more intangible, for instance, like the way you bill your customers or possibly some aspect of your service/support offering. It could even be the quality of your staff. They key is that these features are:

o Different from your competition.
o Of value to your customer.

I drive a much-loved Rover 75 and since the demise of the Rover Company I go to an independent Rover garage. They claim to be great engineers (but which garage doesn’t?), however between the four mechanics, they have over 100 years of Rover experience. Now that is a differentiator that makes me feel very comfortable using them!

Once you are quite clear what differentiates your offering, then you have a focus to help build value in your sale. You can ask smart questions to help your customer recognise the unique value of your product or service, in the knowledge that they will be unable to get that same value from your competition. In achieving this, you have not only created extra value but also developed a first stage strategy for handling the competition.

Next month I will look at the process of building customer value for your differentiators – some practical advice on the pathway to winning more business.

You don’t have any differentiation? Well if that is the case, your offering is moving towards commoditisation. All is not lost, for in cases like these, effective negotiation skills can pay dividends. Can I suggest that you take a look at the negotiation articles that accompany these sales bulletins?

Selling? More Like Counselling!
What Do Skilled Negotiators Do In Face-to-face Negotiations?
Power In Negotiations

Huthwaite International

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