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Is Your Sales Team Creating Real Differentiation?
June 8, 2009 @ 02:07 PM | By Guest Blogger

On our webinar last month, we welcomed speakers from Wilson Learning and they talked to our customers about “How to Protect and Expand Your Business in Tough Times.”  The feedback from our audience was so great that we asked them to give us a quick follow - up. Please welcome a guest blogger, Tom Roth, President of Wilson Learning.

2009-06-05-Sales-Differenti To avoid the pitfalls of competing on price, salespeople are often told they need to “sell the value.”  Another strategy is to “value add” by offering the customer extra services or products. While these strategies can be effective short-term, neither of these approaches produces a sustainable advantage. Selling the value implies that the salesperson either truly understands what the customer values or that the value offered is perceived as significantly different from the competing offerings. All too often, neither one of these is true. At the same time, a value add strategy has its own drawbacks. While it may sometimes win a sale, it produces customer expectations of “free stuff.” It also erodes margins and may be easy for the competitor to match.

Salespeople rely on these strategies, ineffective though they often are, because they find it difficult to achieve genuine differentiation based on something the customer values and is hard for the competition to replicate. But suppose a salesperson were able to create a highly differentiated offering that provides real value that competitors can’t copy because it is unique to the customer? The secret lies in going beyond features and service that are easily commoditized, and developing what Ted Levitt called “the potential offering.” Salespeople can achieve this kind of differentiation by looking beyond their product to all aspects of the customer’s experience across the whole process of buying and using a product or service.

The Customer Life Cycle, as it is sometimes called, provides a lens for understanding the experience from the customers’ perspective, from how they shop and buy the solution to how they use it until the end of its useful life. Each phase offers an opportunity for an innovative salesperson to find sources of differentiation.


If you answered yes to all 6 questions, congratulations on meeting the criteria for creating a differentiated offering for your customers! You may, however, want to ask yourself if all of your salespeople are consciously applying a strategy to maximize the potential for every customer.

If you answered no to all or most of the questions, you may want to raise your sales team’s awareness differentiation. Ask them to explore how to better differentiate by finding opportunities.

If your answers were half and half, analyze the questions to which you answered no and identify where you may be missing additional opportunities. Explore additional possibilities with your sales team.

To learn more about how to employ differentiation strategies, contact Wilson Learning at 800.944.2880. You can also join our webinar on June 17 when Wilson Learning will discuss how to “Heighten the Impact of Learning on Performance.”

Roth Tom Roth is president of Global Solutions Group for Wilson Learning Worldwide. With over 27 years experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions, he brings valuable expertise and strategic direction to the company. Roth is also the co-author of the book, Creating the High Performance Team.

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