The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast
The Audible-Ready Sales Podcast

Episode · 1 month ago

Differentiation

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

There’s not a salesperson out there who doesn’t want more wins and bigger deals. The most elite salespeople are strategic about how they align their solution’s differentiation to their buyer’s needs and as a result, they’re able to win more, high-value accounts. John Kaplan shares, where most reps are challenged when it comes to differentiating their solutions and the skills these reps can focus on to significantly improve their bottom line. 

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Once you understand those key elements from your buyer. Everything needs to be related to what's important to your buyer. If it's not important to your buyer, why are you talking about it? You're listening to the audible ready podcast, the show that helps you and your team's sell more faster. Will feat your sales leader sharing their best insights on how to create a sales engine that helps you fuel repeatable revenue growth, presented by the team afforce management, a leader in BTB sales effectiveness. Let's get started. Hello, I'm Racil Clip Miller with the audibilready sales podcast. Thank you for listening. Today, we are going to spend our time in this episode talking about differentiation. John Kaplan joins me today. Hi John, Hey Rachel. How are we different and better? We all want to be selling a highly differentiated solution, but sometimes that...

...differentiation isn't so obvious to us as salespeople. We need to work to determine how we can position our features and functions in a way that has valued for the customer. So, John, let's start with short discussion on we're reps most often go wrong with differentiation. Yeah, you know, I think that the sum of the biggest challenges ours that, you know, reps don't articulate it in a way that has, you know, meaning to the buy or they get a little cocky about it and feel like they can win the deal alone. On differentiation and in many sellers don't know how to set it up in a conversation. You know, it's like it's like given away a punch line too early. And the lastly, most companies don't do a good enough job arming their sellers with the knowledge and skills about the company differentiation and how to position it properly. Yeah, it's understand a differentiation and how it what it means to the buyer, which is difficult parts. So let's talk about...

...what to do right. First, you have to have a solid understanding every differentiation, and what we mean by that is you have to know what makes your solution different and or better than competitive alternatives. Yeah, force management. We break differentiation in the three major categories, unique differentiation and and this is the differentiation. It has value to the customer and only you can do it. So. So, therefore, you want to get this differentiation influenced into the required capabilities and you'll win every time. So, if you have unique differentiation in the customer says it's required. You know, and you get it into the require capabilities, you'll win and every time. And you know the way the world works today, though it is today's unique differentiation becomes comparative in the future. So if it's any good, it's going to get copied. So that's why we also talk about another one called comparative differentiation, and again...

...it has value to the customer and others say they can do it, but how you do it is better for the customer and these are where we really compete most of the time. And then a last one, just for information. We're going to focus on unique and comparative today, but holistic differentiation is powerful as well and you know, it has value to the customer. It tends to be more about the company, like company performance, financial stability, background of ownership and stuff like that, and in a customers mind these tend to lower the risk of doing business with your company. So they're important. The problem is that reps tend to use these two early in the sale cycle and they don't get credit. Yeah, they mitigate we always say they mitigate risk, but the deals are one in laws. On that comparative differentiation most often. So for o this conversation, John, let's focus on that unique and comparative group. Once you understand that, then you can go to the...

...customer execute the right type of discovery, and it starts with that. First basic sales skills, uncovering customer need. Yes, like everything we talked about on this podcast, Rachel, it's always starts with the outside in, with a customer problem. You need to uncover the outcomes that they're trying to drive and what's required to drive that outcome. It always starts with great discovery. You can't use differentiation to your advantage if you don't understand how to position it to solve a customer problem. We have a concept that we use called trap setting questions. These are important in discovery. Talk about why. Yeah, trap setting questions are really, really critical and and couple things. We want to make sure that, like when we start this conversation, a trap setting question is nothing more than a discovery question with the intent to trap the competition. You are not trapping the customer. Repeat, you are not trapping the...

...customer. So it's a discovery question, but the intent to trap the competitor around your differentiator. So every morning you need to wake up, know your differentiators and prepare great discovery questions that will set up your differentiation. So you got to remember and discovery. I can't just tell someone they have a problem. If I tell them they have a problem, they're going to resist me. So I have to get them to tell themselves that they have a problem. And let me give you a quick example. So I work for a software company back in the day that had very powered, powerful differentiation. was called Bidirectional Associativity, and what it meant was that a change made anywhere in the design through manufacturing process was immediately reflected everywhere. So it was like global find and replace, you know, for for manufacturing and changes and timing of changes, which significantly impacted money. So I knew that I had to get...

...the customer thinking about the pain of making changes in the process, and especially late changes. So I'd wake up and prepare questions like walk me through the last engineering change that created a challenge for you, and what impact did that change have on the timing of the project, and what impact did that change have on the cost of a project? So you know, and I kept going deeper and deeper, like who ultimately pays for that. You were the customer. So I was trying to, you know, uncover profitability issues. And so now I have them standing in a moment of pain when a change that's made in, let's say, in an engineering drawing is not reflected in manufacturing. And then, Rachel, the last thing, which I call the crux move, is I have to cement the fix for this problem, which is my differentiation in the customers require capabilities, and so I'd follow up with the crux move is. So, Mr Mrs Customer, it sounds like you're...

...going to need to make sure that a change made anywhere in the process is reflected everywhere automatically, and they would say yes, absolutely, that would be great. And later on, when I was done with my discovery, I would pivot to how we did that and tell them about our functionality called bidirectional associativity. So the crux move, you know, took that software company that I was talking about from zero to a billion dollars in less than ten years and stock splitting five times times and seven years and forty three straight arders of never missing our number to Wall Street. It was an incredibly important, not only incredibly poured differentiator for us, but the fact that they taught us not a position and effectively was just astronomical in our success. I think you bring the way you hold that storage on. There's one thing I wanted to call out. Once you heard the customer mentioned your differentiation as part of the requirements for success, that the Bidet directional assist utivity, you can just jump into...

...the fact that you had it. You said later on, when I was done with my discovery, that I would pivot to show how we did that and how we did that differently than others. It's glad you caught that. I'm really glad you caught that because I have this vision in my head of, you know, braveheart and Mel Gibson yelling. Hold hold, because what we have a tendency to do is the minute we hear anything in a conversation that just smells or sniffs like our differentiation, we jump all over it start talking about, you know, how we can do that, and you have to get the customer in a position that is so critical and so urgent that they know they have a problem that they've created their own urgency around solving it. So it's totally related to what we always talk about in differentiation, and I want to just simplify it a little bit, because trap setting questions are nothing more than great discovery questions with the intent to trap the competitor around the...

...ferunciation. So don't overcomplicate it. Right you're trapping the CO or competitor and then you're also getting the customers review to reveal requirements for success that aligned to what you can do. And, to say it a different way, John, what we were talking about is you have to understand the problem fully, right. So when you're holding like Mel Gibson and Braveheart, I mean it's exciting when you hear a requirement that you know you can do better the competition, but you really have to understand that problem, what's required to fix it and, importantly, the outcomes that the customer is trying to drive. All of that information, all of those components, really allow you to correctly map your differentiation, to do it in the right way. So let's talk about that, John. I want to spend a little bit of time on that. We just don't want to rattle off our features that we know are differentiated, like Oh, that's important you, oh we can do that here's but a lot right you need to hold on that a little bit too. Yeah, really, really good point. So, once you understand those key elements...

...from your buyer, everything needs to be related to what's important to your buyer. If it's not important to your buyer, why are you talking about it? So you have to position that differentiation as it relates to the requirements for success and the outcomes they're trying to drive. If it's not related to the buyer, don't focus on it. Yeah, and you've told a great story so far on this podcast. We love the stories. I would love to hear a story where you worked a comparative differentiator, this comparative angle really well, or maybe just where you stuck at it. But we do we can focus on something you did well. Well, no, I got one every this one was this one was a cliffhanger for me, but it's one of my favorites on this topic. So it's when I was selling software and I was closing. I was in a closing meeting with the CEO of the company and we done an incredible job with discovery. We found out which critical project...

...was in trouble and demonstrated how our software could solve those project issues. You know, way better than anyone else, and I'm smiling like a Cheshire cat when all of a sudden the CEO says to me, Mr Kaplan, we have a problem. So I'm thinking to myself, okay, I'm always prepared for objections, but this one almost got me. That's one almost got me. And I said, you know, what's the problem? And he told me the color of your screen is blue and not green, and which was a true statement, but it was so simple it was I couldn't tell if he was kidding. So I thought he was kidding me. And so, luckily, I was trained extremely well, you know, by my company in about you know the importance of differentiation and how to properly position it. So, after settling myself, and you're holding my composure, I asked a discovery question. So when in doubt, ask questions. So I said, yes,...

Mr CEO, the color of our user interface is blue, but can you tell me what problem that creates for you? And he answered. You know, my engineers are telling me that they've been looking at a, you know, a green screen for over ten years and it's it's distracting for their work. And I instantly knew that this was the last ditch effort by my competitor who was about to lose the account. They had a green screen and after all the validation events that we did proving our technology, all that, they come up with what's the color of the screen? So I immediately went to the final required capabilities, and I want you to just listen to this point, audience please. This is so important learning moment for me in my life as a seller. So I immediately want to the required capabilities that have been agreed upon the by the customer. There was no screen color listed. So no problem. I said, no problem, Mr CEO, here's a...

...list of your required capabilities. At the top of the list was what we were talking about earliers by Directional associativity. So I'll add green screen to the list. And then I asked, can you stack rank these for me? And so I went through and asked if green screen was more important than acts, if it was more important than why? And on each one, you know, of the previously agreed upon requirements, it wasn't more important than any of them. So in the end green screen wound up last. It was one of my favorite interactions with a business owner and when the CEO said to me, John, that was well done. I wish my sellers could do that. I'll take care of the green screen issue. We're all good and I really really have contemplated that over the years. Is that if I've done a good job positioning my differentiation, it should show up in the require capabilities. If somebody brings up, you know, another required capability, don't be...

...afraid to go back to or they bring up some difference between you and the competitor in this case, don't be afraid to go back to the required capabilities and just have a discussion about those and in the end, you know, even if it's a require Cape, even if it is a some type of differentiation. This case, I guess you could call it comparative. However, we started this podcast by saying it has to add value to the customer. Green screen in the end did not add value to the customer. That was overwhelming enough to change to require capability. So was such a huge learning moment for me. That's great and we've all had to deal with our own green screen. It's right. It's right green screen moments. I love that. Hasha, we have a great podcast also with Marty Mercer on stack raking. They require capabilities. In your favor, I'll go ahead and link that in the show notes. Or everyone else there. Thank you for the conversation,...

John, my pleasure. All right. Thank you to all of you for listening. At force management, we're focused on transforming sales organizations into elite teams. Are Proven methodologies deliver programs that build company alignment and fuel repeatable revenue growth. Give your teams the ability to execute the growth strategy at the point of sale. Our strength is our experience. The proof is in our results. Let's get started. Visit US at force MANAGEMENTCOM. You've been listening to the audible ready podcast. To not miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. Until next time,.

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