Sales Management Training: Differentiating your business during a recession

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It’s amazing that most sales people, managers and corporate officers believe they know what their prospects and clients are thinking and wanting. On the surface and/or in general terms they may be correct sometimes. However, it’s not the vague generalities that win sales. Besides, when in a selling situation you don’t know if you are working with the rule or the exception.

Mingling at a networking meeting an elderly gentleman stops me and offers a hello. He asks me who I’m with, so I say, “I help people develop business. So what are your major issues as it relates to business development during this economic down time?” And he says, “Getting more business.”
Then I ask him, “Do your current clients have business that you’re not getting?” At first he says yes, but then quickly moves to tell me how he’s getting all the business from one of them. So I say, “What about getting more from the others?”
Well, somehow he dodges this question and tells me what his company has that others don’t. “We can react within a day,” he says. “Our competitors need 1-2 weeks.”
So I tried to say, “What if your other customers are not in a hurry, then what?” But he didn’t answer this. He just kept bragging about what he felt made his company special.
So here are two points to learn from this story.

  1. You may feel you have a differentiator – fast in his case, but be careful. Not everybody wants what you think they should want? In his case fast is a macro differentiator. This can be used in marketing campaigns to attract leads that want work to begin with a few days. However, once someone shows interest, you’ve got to move to the micro differentiators. These are the issues and concerns that the individual wants solved and/or the desires s/he wants you to deliver. Fast maybe one of them, but there may be others. So just in case another competitor can do it fast also (because they have extra capacity during the slowdown), you’d better have some other deliverable that the person wants that you do well.
  2. Not everybody wants you’re macro differentiator even though you think they should. So when you’re going after a project and you want premium pricing, you have to find those that have to have you’re macro differentiator. Actually this will be one of the criteria of you Ideal Customer Profile. You want customers that need your services delivered right away.
  3. For those that don’t, you’re going to need other differentiators or else you’ll have to be the low bidder. So, are there other things you do well? Of course there are. Start documenting how well you do them and what experience you have doing them. Then when someone says they want services like you have, but not for a few weeks, and they want it done accurately with quick follow-up if needed, you can tell them how accurate you are and what your follow-up program is, as you back it up with numbers of jobs, testimonials and other proof.
  4. The moral of this story is that in a recessionary period seek customers that fall in your sweet spot, but also open your thinking to other things you do well. Document those other things and market those strengths also. You don’t have to be the best or the only, just good. And, the best place to start is within your existing client base. You want 100% of the business from 100% of your clients.