There’s a certain comfort zone and preference most people have with the term “Marketing” versus “Selling”. Try telling someone “You’re going to start selling” and imagine what that reaction is versus telling a business owner or employee “You’re going to start marketing the business now.” Which one makes you a little sweaty or anxious?
Selling is scary to many because it conjures up some of our deepest fears: REJECTION and FAILURE. Marketing feels safer in that we can promote and try ad campaigns to bring in sales and the rejection or failure is anonymous, faceless, instead of a direct “no” or the dreaded “email silence” that comes with asking an individual to buy from you.
For small businesses, though those that don’t just market, those that SELL create a distinct competitive advantage for themselves. Capitalizing on what their competitors aren’t doing instead of slugging it out doing the same thing as everyone else. Advertising and promotions are only buying or renting your customers’ attention for the short term*. Earn your customers’ business. Help them buy YOU through relationships created on trust, understanding, and value – that’s selling.
To make this less scary or daunting or to, perhaps, give you the inspiration to commit to SELLING, not just marketing, I’m going to give your our keys, our secret of –
How to Make Selling Your Competitive Advantage:
1) Profoundly understand your customers and speak honestly and authentically in their currency.
Your competitors are NOT doing this, and here’s why. They’re too busy telling potential customers all about themselves: their products, their capabilities, their benefits, their business . . . you get the picture.
Are you leaving your customers out of THEIR solutions? Or, are you talking about their problems, their risks, their costs, how they will execute or implement your solution?
If you don’t deeply understand your customer, you’re not selling, you’re blindly swinging at the piñata, hoping candy, or in this case, “customers” fall out. And anyone who’s watched America’s Funniest Videos knows what happens when you swing blindly at your target. Someone always takes a hit to the face or the groin and it takes a bunch of swings to crack that thing open and get the bounty. How many swings are you taking before you get to the payoff?
Surprise your future customers by asking more questions, interviewing more past customers and understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes so you speak to the heart of what’s truly valuable to them. When you speak in their “currency”, you build partnerships, shorten sales cycles and create strong advocates that are loyal to you and are willing to refer you.
2) Specialize your offering and deeply differentiate in your go-to-market strategy.
Most business offerings are too general, too vague or too vanilla. In this age of hyper-customization, hyper-local marketing and personalized everything, the “specialist” wins business and the “generalist” just blends in.
We see this a lot – you have a service or a business that serves a need but in an effort to scoop up more business you begin to widen your offerings, provide more services or a wider range of products that may or may not fit your value proposition. You don’t want to miss any opportunities, lose any business so you start going broader and wider. But in the end, you end up diluting what makes you unique and different.
Specializing, becoming the expert or the only one who can provide exactly what you do may make your pool of customers smaller, but it makes your potential for conversion much higher. Specializing and differentiating your offers makes it impossible to compare you “apples to apples” when you’re actually apple pie or apple scones.
Sell your unique offering with an approach that’s different too. How about leveraging transparency and authenticity? What about a collaborative approach to customers? What if you created a totally unique buying experience?
The deeper you differentiate your business, the higher your conversion of customers. How can you dig deeper in to what you do to be known as the expert, to be the authority or be in a category of one?
3) Execute like a Mad Man, like your hair is on fire, like every one else is coming at you to eat your lunch.
Now this last point is where most people fall down. You may pull it together and create a strategy, work with a consultant, a marketer or the gurus of selling (ahem) but if you can’t execute your strategy to profoundly connect and communicate with your customers to differentiate yourself, then all you’re left with is nice words and great ideas.
You can buy the treadmill or sign up for the gym and then never show up but that’s not enough to make progress toward being healthy. You’ve got to get on the equipment and MOVE and that’s the same mindset for applying actions to your strategy.
You’ve got to execute, execute and execute more to out pace your competitors. That means selling – picking up the phone, connecting on LinkedIn, building relationships, asking for meetings, getting referrals.
Commit and follow through on the brilliant ways you uniquely serve your ideal customers. Great advice was once given to me by a sales director: “Be accountable to the plan, not the results.”
You might screw up, it might not work, but adjust and keep performing, keep selling your uniqueness and keep connecting deeply with your customers because selling is YOUR competitive advantage. You have a better strategy and you keep going long after your competitors have given up and gone back to promotions and advertising, blah, generic messages and doing what’s easy, hoping that if they keep blindly hacking away in the dark that “the customers will fall out of the piñata”.
You can put much distance between you and the competition by sticking to your strategy and executing the actions and activities that demonstrate your unique value to your customers.
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!
PS – Not sure how to differentiate or understand your customers’ currency? A little freaked out about what a sales strategy means? Let’s talk about how we help you put distance between you and competitors. Contact us to find out how.
(*NOTE to my marketing friends. Marketing, advertising and promotion ARE important and necessary. No disrespect to you or your creative brilliance. I’m speaking heartfully to small business owners in the Business to Business space – they MUST sell in addition to marketing. No hate mail, please.)