The Missing Link Between Your Differentiation and Your Buyers
There are a lot of organizations that tout what makes them different from the competition. However, at times, that differentiation is simply talk because sales reps are unable to articulate that differentiation in terms of buyer needs. Cross-functional alignment on the competitive differentiation of a great B2B solution and a sales consumable framework that enables reps to leverage that differentiation, can have a major impact on the sales team’s ability to win more and close higher-value opportunities.
See how successful sales leaders generate this alignment and operationalize it in a way that drives repeatable sales impacts and company-wide benefits.
Align your differentiation to your buyer
You can't just proclaim differentiation as an organization. Elite companies equip reps to leverage their differentiation to win more and charge a premium price by:
- Enabling the sales team to articulate how your solution is different or better than competition (including the do-it-internally competitor) and provide proof.
- Enabling reps to leverage agreed-upon solution differentiation and align it to their buyer’s specific positive business outcomes, before and after scenarios, and requirements for a successful solution implementation.
Your sales organization needs to establish customer relevance for differentiators and how they align with a buyer’s before and after scenarios. You don't want your reps, at any level, just rattling off differentiation unless it has meaning to their buyer. If you tell me that your marketing software solution can integrate with Salesforce, but I'm on the HubSpot CRM, then that differentiation means nothing to me. Many sales organizations are plagued with reps that show up and throw up their differentiation, whether those factors matter to the customer or not. As a result, buyers see your solution as overpriced or more than they need, and sellers struggle to win and charge premiums.
Equip your sales team with the ability to set customer context before they talk about why your solutions are different from the competition. Below are the steps we would take to equip your sales reps with this ability.
Build cross-functional alignment on the essential questions
Every department in your organization (e.g., sales, marketing, product, customer services, etc.) must have a clear understanding of the problems you solve for your buyers and the positive business outcomes you drive. There should also be a consistent understanding of how you deliver business value differently and/or better than your competitors. This understanding is the secret to consistently selling B2B solutions at a premium.
To generate alignment on buyer value and solution differentiation, everyone in your company should have the same answers to these essential questions:
- What business problems do you solve for your customers?
- How do you specifically solve those problems?
- How do you do it differently than your competition?
- What’s your proof?
We often write about the essential questions because improving sales performance demands that the cross-functional team and entire customer-facing organization have consistent answers to the four essential questions. When it comes to differentiation, you need to first have cross-functional clarity on what makes you different from the competition and operationalize that clarity in a way that’s consumable to the sales team. Then, through customized training and sales consumable tools, your reps can work on adapting that positioning to what is relevant to their specific buyers.
Train your reps to align buying criteria to your solution’s value and differentiation
Differentiation will only be an asset to your sales teams if they're able to tie it to their customer's required capabilities. We define required capabilities as the specific requirements that are necessary to achieve a prospect’s positive business outcomes (PBOs), meaning if the buyer wants to achieve X, they need to make sure Y is in place.
For example, a rep could ask something like, “how are you planning to track this platform as part of the CRM ecosystem?” In this scenario, when the buyer says they need to integrate into the CRM that factor is a required capability.
Teach your reps to use your solution’s competitive differentiation to stack these required capabilities in your favor. Solution capabilities are where the technical and business worlds intersect — equip your sales team to nail the two and connect them by ensuring they can align your solution’s differentiation to their buyer’s desired outcomes.
More often than not, a buyer will have a desired future state, but not necessarily a defined way to get there. The most elite salespeople leverage this gap by guiding their buyers in defining their own decision criteria, and in doing so, influencing that criteria with their solution's competitive differentiators. When a buyer’s required capabilities are tied to what makes your solution different from the competition — your rep has successfully established relevant differentiation that they can leverage. In this instance, your reps can validate the need for a premium price, because they’ve gotten their buyer to anchor on required capabilities for a solution that they can’t get from a competitor, or internally. Here are some action steps you can take to teach reps to execute:
- Equip reps with the ability to execute great discovery with the intent to trap the competition around your solution’s competitive differentiation.
- Enable your salespeople with frameworks they can use to help buyers stand in their moment of pain and anchor on differentiators that favor your solution.
- Operationalize a framework that you reps can use to repeatedly align your solution’s value and differentiation to what matters most to their buyers.
- Customize great trap-setting questions that your reps can use to establish differentiation that has meaning to the buyer in every opportunity.
- Share this article with your reps to provide insights on how to build out a trap-setting plan and question flow that they can use when they’re up against tough incumbents or competition.
Coach and reinforce
Using trap-setting questions and getting your differentiation into the buyer's requirements isn't easy. It's particularly difficult when you have greener reps calling on established executives and/or they’re shifting to working with more decision makers and need to capture collective insights on required capabilities.
It takes a concerted and ongoing effort to shift reps towards successfully executing sales conversations that are focused on their buyer’s needs and how your solution’s differentiation is relevant. They need to be shown how to do it, be held accountable, and coached on how to repeat their success. Enable your front-line managers to coach and reinforce new concepts within your sales teams, don’t shortcut manager training. Mapping your solution’s differentiation to the buying criteria of multiple prospects, may be a new skill to your managers as well. Consider providing them with customized training on how to best enable your reps to execute on competitive differentiation in their opportunities. Provide them with specific training and tools that they can use to show reps how to execute and teach skills that reps can repeat in future opportunities to drive ongoing success.
As a sales leader, you have the opportunity to build your managers into great sales coaches, because you’ve done it before. These front-line manager coaching resources aim to give you a starting point to coaching your coaches and improving their ability to drive front-line impact.