Webster’s dictionary says to differentiate is simply to become distinct or different. Here’s a story to help you get a picture of what this looks like in the wild.
When most folks are out in public they usually ignore the panhandlers. They just look down or away and avoid eye contact when passing by. It’s not because people are cold-hearted jerks, but simply not wanting to feed someone’s alcohol or drug addictions. However recently this long-standing habit was altered by someone who shares this story.
“Everyone reading this has no doubt encountered homeless people. As you know, they often hold cardboard signs with handwritten messages like; “God bless you”… “Anything helps”… “Down on my luck”… or simply, “Hungry.”
I’ve seen these buzzwords so many times that it’s easy to keep walking. And face it, as a society we’ve become hardened to requests like these for handouts.
If you were a homeless person who needed money, it would be important to be different. You must grab people’s attention as they pass by looking down at their phones or talking to one another. That’s exactly what one man did in front of a store recently. He looked like a typical homeless guy, middle age with a scruffy beard and long greasy hair. His clothes were tattered and dirty. Judging from his appearance, this man had likely been on the streets for months. Regardless, he proudly held his homemade sign and smiled at everyone who passed.
That’s when the message on the man’s sign caught my attention… “Too ugly to be a stripper.”
When I saw the sign, I couldn’t help but stop and laugh, and he laughed with me. It was funny. So I pulled out my money clip and handed over a couple of dollars. I wasn’t the only one amused by his message; other people laughed too. A young woman beside me snapped a cell phone picture. I watched at least two other bystanders put money in his cup. The man’s sign was working.”
Now, this story might sound meaningless to you, and maybe you think my sense of humor is sick and not politically correct. But I’m sharing this story because it includes something we often discuss in sales coaching. You see, this homeless man’s unique cardboard sign emphasized the power of contrast between him and his peers on the streets and near traffic lights where they are easily noticed by motorists.
He needed money. His sign called attention to his need and he used a clever message that made folks laugh… and nudged them to hand over their change and small bills.
Fast forward to the selling universe. For you to become ‘distinct and different’ from your competition in order to win more deals, consider the following:
- In 1989 Stephen Covey published The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the first habit states, “Seek first to understand and then be understood.” This provides a blueprint for differentiation from competitors who frankly reverse this maxim often, I’ll bet.
- Ask more but shorter questions. How annoying is to listen to TV reporters ask long-winded, three-part questions? When they are finished asking them, it’s almost impossible to remember what the first part of the question was. Often the reporter just wants to command more air time for him or herself.
Be different by using your questions to help define what they value so you can discuss relevant features and benefits that will wow them. For example, “Why is that important to you?” “Who is impacted by that?” “On a scale of 1-10 how important is that to you?” “How do you want to proceed and on what timetable?”
- Be sincere, meaning free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy. Buyers have no interest in listening to what Rush Limbaugh identifies as “phony baloney, plastic banana, good-time rock ‘n’ rollers.” Remember, you can smell a phony a mile away, meaning if you can, your prospects can too.
- Focus on the buyer’s objectives, as it’s not about you. Way back in the last century on my first sales job I learned from Zig Ziglar that, “You can have anything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want. The secret is that you have to help them get theirs first.”
Here are a dozen of the crucial topics (out of 116) that Doug included in Sell is NOT a Four Letter Word. Enthusiasm page 6. Fear of Success page 11. Appearance page 25. Likeability page 27. Credibility page 30. Empathy page 32. Non-verbal Communication page 40. Overtalking page 51. Buyer Emotions page 65. Truth Telling page 131. Rejection page 190. $16 with FREE SHIPPING.
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