“We have the best technology. We have a superior solution. Our solution is the industry leader.” I was reading what members of the audience – all from different companies – had written on index cards in answer to the question: What is your company’s primary differentiator? I continued reading the next three. “We have the most experienced consultants. We have a proven methodology and process. We have unparalleled industry expertise.”
I was still holding another 70 to 80 cards, all with something similar written on them. But I didn’t need to read very many of them for the group to realize how similar their supposed “differentiators” sounded. It highlights how difficult it is to truly differentiate ourselves in today’s highly competitive sales engagements if we don’t target our value messages to specific buyers. Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson in their book The Challenger Sale call this “tailoring for resonance” and identify it as one of the key sales skills in today’s most effective sales people.
Most sales people are able to tailor their value messages to the customer’s business or industry by incorporating appropriate vernacular and phrases (e.g. calling financial services customers “clients” or healthcare customers “patients”, etc.) And many are able to tailor to the appropriate industry or business by focusing on the business processes most relevant to that business or industry. But that is only the beginning for true resonance tailoring.
The best sales people also tailor their value messages to the customer’s specific business goals and objectives, linking their solution directly to what the customer is trying to achieve in their own business. They reference strategies, initiative names and metric goals unique to the customer’s business plans. They further tailor their value messages to specific roles or organizational levels – changing the value language and phrasing to match the typical language of the executives, middle management, or end users who are present for the discussion. Ideally, they are even referring to specific individuals about specific benefits and value. Finally, the best of the best salespeople are able to tailor their value messages based on a customer individual’s personal agenda and goals, ensuring, that each customer buyer or influencer sees their personal “win” in the solution.