Lee, from what I can tell, you seem like a very sharp guy. You have excellent points, and your theories seem to be grounded in practical knowledge. Not only that, you write in a fun and conversational way, making for an enjoyable read. Overall, I think you are a good person to follow and will do my best to help point others in your direction for sales expertise.
However, you’ve written a couple of papers that I do disagree with, to a pretty heavy extent. In both “Are Salespeople Overthinking Differentiation”, https://www.salesarchitects.com/bjc/are-salespeople-overthinking-sales-differentiation/ as well as your statement on 3/7/16 that “You Don’t Need to be Unique to be Different” https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/you-dont-need-unique-different-lee-salz, you make the point, quite emphatically, that salespeople need to worry more about being different than being unique.
I see your point in that differences from your competition allow some level of distinguishment and ultimately offer a crack to slip into and gain sales traction. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that statement. If there is no difference, you’re selling commodities, and commodities, by nature, are interchangeable and 99 out of 100 times get sold by the lowest bidder.
My issue with your theories, in these instances, are that they are too simplistic and focus too much on the product side, rather than the relationship and talent side.
Let me elaborate. To your point, finding a difference between what you offer and what your competitors offer allows you to bring up certain advantages you have that will make your product or service more beneficial. Ok, but this is essentially Sales 101. Every company on earth believes their product or service has something that is truly amazing that differentiates them from others. This is a fundamental rule in business…you really can’t have any symbolism of sales without it. The trait of focusing on different rather than unique that you’re endorsing is really a bad one and one that many owners and sales team members fall into which leads to their regression. That’s the fallacy that what their product or service exhibits that differentiates them is a. enough and b. something that the customer cares about.
Since I have a one year old and diapers are always on my mind, we’ll use them as an example. Some diapers have a stripe that turns blue when the diaper gets wet. Huggies (or whoever touts this), somehow believes that a. that wetness indicator is enough to make you buy their diapers over others that have their own differentiation factors. And b. that the color indicator is something that we care about. I can’t speak for the whole population on either points a or b, but I can speak for my family. When Liam (our boy) pees, we don’t need a color indicator to alert us that he has a wet diaper. We can feel it…anyone who has ever had a baby can feel it…it’s not some amazing super power. Not only that, if we did use the wetness indicator, by the time we get his pants down to look at the color change stripe, we would have already done the hard part of wrestling him down and undressing him, so we might as well go ahead and change him, regardless.
So you see, being different is necessary. The key though is whether or not that difference is enough to make your customers switch to your brand/stay with your brand versus other differences that your competitors subscribe to. As well as does your difference really matter enough to get them to switch or stay. In this instance, the strip is a. not enough to make us switch or stay with whatever brand that is…we’ll default to another difference when making our decision. And b. we could care less about that differentiator. Is it different? Yes. Is the difference of any value at all to us? No.
As mentioned above, believing your product or service is different can be a very big problem in my mind. It lulls smart people and good companies into complacency. Believing their product or service is different stymies growth and development of new and better ways and ideas…a sure killer of companies.
Ok, so while in my mind I have pointed out issues with your theory on differentiation, it’s your stance on uniqueness that really drives me crazy. Uniqueness is one of the few fundamental pieces that any person in general, let alone salesperson, should focus on. You’re 100% right, uniqueness does imply the fact that you’re one of a kind…and it should. You ARE one of a kind. Your uniqueness is like a fingerprint, it is what makes you truly special and should be enhanced and built upon whenever possible. The fact that you’re unique is almost always the deciding factor between two similar products or services…the reason: product or service differentiation is rarely enough!!
One of my initial points was that differentiation is product or service focused and uniqueness is living and breathing with every person. Differentiation is like a list of features or check boxes. Uniqueness cannot be measured or compared because it is the whole package in completeness. People who are unique are infinitely more valuable to me and customers than someone who is just ‘normal’ or ‘average’. Granted, uniqueness is sometimes polarizing and can lose you as many customers as it can win you, but as we are all learning, the days of being everything to everybody are gone. Sales, business, and life is about hitting the edges and working your way in. Try to sell to everyone to quickly and you’ll sell to no one.
Anyway, I know this is a lousy way to introduce myself, but honestly, I really do like your style and think we’d make excellent teammates (that’s what teammates do, right, they strive to help better each other?) I certainly don’t have the experience that you have in consulting, but I do like to believe myself an expert in all things sales, especially in the field of ‘executing’. Hopefully we can use our banter to help both of us grow and better our ‘games’. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts so openly and allowing feedback. I love growth and these challenges from both sides are how we get there. Anyone reading this, I’m sure there will be many varying viewpoints, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out our site at www.evolvegrowth.com. Something tells me this won’t be the last time me and my new friend Lee have differing opinions in our pursuit of sales growth!