How to be different when developing business

fishPay-off: 6 actionable ideas to help your clients see (and buy) your difference

Investment: 4 minutes

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Unlike the man in my following story, my own clients don’t sell fish. But they can learn some useful lessons that will change how they approach business development and the results that they get.

Strap yourself in, because I was gobsmacked by this guy’s approach.

fish_manI’m the fish-man with a difference!

Two weeks ago, a man knocked on my door and said, “I’m the fish-man with a difference!” And then waited for my response.

(I decided, “what…you have a human head?”, was an inappropriate response).

Then, two weeks later, today, another man from a competing door-to-door seafood company opened in exactly the same way, word for word.

“OK”, I thought, as I picked myself up laughing and rolled up my sleeves, “it’s on…”

You know, it’s almost as if there’s a greater force out there just desperate for me to write a post on this. So, here’s how the dialogue went, followed by some lessons learned, that if you apply them will change your client’s perception of you:

Fish-man: (Over-excitedly) I’m the fish-man with a difference!

Me: Another man said exactly the same last week. Are you…ABC Seafood?

Fish-man: No we’re XYZ Seafood. ABC Seafood are really awful people.

(He honestly said this! I’m thinking, “you’ve lost the sale, but I’ll keep talking with you because I think you’re writing my next blog post”.)

Me: Really? Well, we already buy seafood from 123 Seafood.

Fish-man: I thought they went bust?

Me: Nope.

Fish-man: Well, we don’t just sell fish, we sell other food too.

Me: So do they.

Fish-man: Well come and have a look anyway and I’ll…

Me: No, as I said, we buy from 123 Seafood.

Fish-man: Well, next time I knock, come and have a look anyway as we beat them on price.

Me: You know, I think I’ve worked out why you’re different.

OK, I didn’t say the last line, but the rest was almost word for word.

Now, he attempted to sell fish.

But you sell you, and your services, your ideas, and the outcomes that you hope will happen. Which qualifies you in immediately to benefit from some useful lessons, if you apply them:

1. Avoid excessive enthusiasm

Don’t open over enthusiastically. Many people insist that their enthusiasm sells. But be careful. Misaligned enthusiasm (or what I often call ‘blind enthusiasm’) demonstrates no empathy and appears self-serving. And it quickly erodes any trust that the buyer has that they are being listened to or understood. Yet many salespeople still lead with it.

Be different by aligning genuine enthusiasm. Genuine, because you’ve built their trust first, diagnosed their problem and genuinely see how they can improve their situation.

2. Avoid the same overused phrases

It’s easy, lazy and costly to use each other’s lines when trying to win people over. We must wrap a little critical thinking around what we’re saying and how it comes across if we want to earn trust and respect.

Customers are sensitive to feeling like they’re being manipulated by ‘techniques’. This is amplified if they’ve heard the same dull phrases from your competition just a few days before.

“I’m the fish-man with a difference”, said by every fish-man, is solid-gold irony. The fish-man who doesn’t say it has the difference. And don’t ask your customers the staggeringly banal, “what’s keeping you awake at night?” because the answer is probably “unimaginative sales bores.”

3. Don’t claim you’re different (they all do that)

Just be different. Engage them differently. Sell differently. Help your customers sense your difference.

I often probe around the level of importance my prospective clients put on working with a provider who relates well to technically minded non-sales people. If, to their minds, this creates unique value, I mention that I’m an engineer by degree. I don’t draw attention to the fact that this makes me different. I help them figure that out. (I realise that I’ve just tripped over that rule by writing this.)

4. Don’t bag the competition.

If you really want to be different, you could complement the competition for certain things that they do well. Help the customer understand that you’re exploring with them so that they make the right buying decision.

By highlighting what they do well (and in what circumstances) you may inadvertently expose your own differences too. Your competition probably aren’t out there complementing you. And so this unusual approach builds trust and respect, is a great example of helping someone to buy, and makes you different.

By the way, I mentioned to the fish-man that I buy from that his competition was knocking recently. His response: “Oh they’re good guys too. They sometimes sell to the next door neighbours of my own customers.” That’s a reasonable response.

5. Ask smart questions

Look at the dialogue. He didn’t ask one single question. Every time he opened his mouth I was ‘pushed’ further away from him. Every dart he threw missed the board. It’s hard to miss when you ask. But don’t just ask any questions. Take the time to develop a toolkit of smart questions that stimulate the buyer appropriately. Not enough people in sales do that, so you’ll be different.

6. Don’t assume that customers want ‘cheaper’

He claimed he was cheaper. I instantly believed him.

But I didn’t want this cheap experience. Don’t assume a cheaper price is what customers want. I wouldn’t put up with him to save a few quid.

It’s an important point this one, missed by many people. If you get it right, you’ll be different. Our own attachment to money and our own interpretations about price and value should not be projected onto our buyers.

If you think your solution is either too expensive or too cheap (and many people I work with tell me they do) then how do you think this will impact what you’re doing? It immediately has you questioning the very value you are selling, which changes everything.

On the other hand, what if you helped the buyer understand their unique perception of value over the short, medium and long-term, and weigh that up against the impact of their alternative options?

Be different

A lot of people I work with end up admitting to me that “really, we’re no different to our competition.” My heart sinks when I hear that. If everything about them (their products, services, customer support, branding) was the same as their competition (which it isn’t), but even if it was, then they can still differentiate themselves by how they sell.

So my advice:

Be different! Act differently. Sell differently.

Want a lift in sales results?

As always, give me a shout if you want to explore how to create a lift in your (non-sales) team’s performance.

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