• You know your offer is better than the rest, but you can’t simply come out and say that to your prospect. Instead, you need to guide them to care about why you’re different.
  • Lee Salz, Founder of Sales Architects, is a sales differentiation pro who says it’s all about positioning, NOT price.
  • Use Lee’s five-step process to help a prospect understand your meaningful differentiators instead of lecturing them with a standard pitch.

If I were to put you on the spot and ask how your product or service stands out from the rest, would you have a developed answer? Would it be about price? 

Price is the go-to differentiator for many sales reps — but it should be the last, says sales management strategist Lee Salz. Your prospect should care about why you and your offer are different, not just about which option costs less. But that mindset shift requires that you provide them with meaningful differentiators instead.

Lee, Founder of Sales Architects and master of sales force growth, dropped some truth bombs about how to do that on an episode of the INSIDE Inside Sales podcast.

If you’ve ever resorted to pushing a discount just to make a sale, you need his groundbreaking sales differentiation strategies!

You’re the ‘best’ — but please don’t say that 

When you flat-out tell someone you’re the best at anything, they’re less likely to believe you.

Yet, so many sales reps take that approach: Explain what’s great about your product or service and claim it’s the greatest thing out there. But “all we do is tarnish the relationship unnecessarily right in the first few moments,” says Lee.

And that overt confidence doesn’t answer everyone’s immediate question: Why you?

Instead of having to field this question after you’ve dropped your pitch, wouldn’t it be better to have answered it already? By the time you get to your bullet points, they’ll buy in.

Prospective buyers don’t want to know why you think you’re the best. They want to know why you are the best. Big difference! They should understand it as a fact without you ever saying the word.

That understanding can only occur when you’re consciously positioning, Lee points out.

Yes, you can effectively position without talking $$$

By its traditional definition, sales positioning focuses on the unique elements of your offer — anything the prospect might think of when someone mentions your brand. And that definition usually includes price as a potential defining factor.

Sales differentiation

It seems reasonable to want to be known as the ones who provide excellent value for a great price, but Lee says you’re risking a high churn rate if you go for that easy closing tactic.

“The deal you win on price today is the client you lose tomorrow for the same reason,” he explains. 

A prospect who’s easily swayed by a few dollars will be easily swayed to leave your company in the dust when the next deal comes along. The price tag is simply not a strong enough reason for a buyer who’s truly in need of what you’re selling. 

Recognize your meaningful differentiators

To open a salesperson’s eyes to true differentiators that exist outside of cost, Lee asks: “Who knows more about the world of potential solutions in your industry: you, or the people you sell to?”

He wants you to remember that it’s always you. The prospect is counting on you to tell them what they need to know because their exposure to the range of solutions available to them is limited compared to yours.

Luckily, Lee has some concrete exercises for determining what makes your solution different — in a meaningful way.

Before we get into them, grab two blank sheets of paper.

  • Exercise 1: Identify what you and your biggest competitors are doing well. On one side of your first sheet, write why you win. On the other side, write why your competitors win. *As you might’ve guessed, Lee says you’re not allowed to include price here!*
  • Exercise 2: Create a list of decision influencers and their pain points. A decision influencer is anyone you’re engaging with who could ultimately influence the sale. Write their names and roles at the top of your second sheet. Then, on one side of the sheet, describe the things keeping them awake at night that you can address. On the flip side, write how you can address them.

Mesh your two lists, and you’ve got your meaningful differentiators: the reasons your organization wins that are also solutions for the influencers’ sleepless nights. 

Et voilà. You’re no longer approaching sales differentiation with a simple list of features that you guess will matter to the buyer.

Fulfill your differentiation obligations

Once you know what makes you one-of-a-kind, Lee claims you have an obligation to share that with your prospect. You’re in the business of helping them make an informed decision, so wouldn’t you be remiss not to?

However, guiding them to the right choice may be a challenge if you’re used to a lecture-style sales process. 

“Because they don’t know what we know about our industry, we have an opportunity to shape buyer decision criteria, but there’s finesse in how we do it,” says Lee.

The how comes down to asking open-ended positioning questions.

Effective positioning questions spark a potential buyer’s interest in the differentiators they didn’t know about before. 

“We can’t just rely on their perceptions because they don’t know these other opportunities exist.”

Think about it this way: If you were considering a new smartphone model just because you’d like a better camera, you may have no idea that it also has a retina display and built-in document scanner. And you may not understand why these things should matter to you.

If a sales rep were to ask you a question like, “When’s the last time you needed to scan a document away from home?” your wheels would start turning. They would’ve positioned you to be ready to hear about the scanner and the other differentiators of that particular phone model.

Five steps to communicate your differentiators

Lee proposes a five-step practice for coming up with your positioning questions and growing your sales differentiation skills. 

  1. RELEVANCY: Ask yourself why someone should care about your product or solution in the first place. It might sound basic, but you have to know before they can.
  1. WHO: Who will care about the differentiators you’ve identified? Not everyone cares about all of them, just like you may not care about every single feature of your new phone. If you struggle with identifying the who, Lee says you may need to revisit your target client profile. Otherwise, you’ll end up in many dreaded price battles because you’re talking to the wrong people.
  1. WHEN: Keep an ear out for what Lee calls “symptoms,” or moments when your prospect will hint that they’re ready to hear about a certain differentiator. It could be something they casually mention that makes you realize why they’ll care about what you’re selling — and that’s the moment to bring it up.
  1. POSITIONING: Come back to relevancy and ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions about what your prospect does or uses every day.
  1. PITCH: You now have a receptive audience who already understands why they need your offer, so it’s time to hit those discussion points and seal the deal.

Neglect this process, and you’ll make things harder on yourself and miss the mark on that obligation to assist in the informed decision-making process. 

To dive more deeply into Lee’s strategy, get your hands on Sales Differentiation — or one of his other four bestselling books.

Skip the speech

If you can’t get someone on the other side of the desk to recognize your differentiators, Lee says, “you may as well not have them.”

Next time you find yourself about to lecture your prospect about the long list of reasons you’re the “best,” pause and reflect on why you think they should care in the first place. Not only will you stay humble, but you’ll naturally progress through Lee’s dynamic five steps to close that sale — at the price you name.

to discount or not to discount