How Do I Avoid the Commodity Trap in Sales?
100% of top-performing sales teams use a formalized sales process. Cashin Sales has created an ebook for you, to walk through the steps on how to create one.
Pretend for a moment that you have a sales rep in front of a highly qualified prospect. The prospect asks, “Why should I buy from you?”
What’s your rep going to say?
Will they start talking about your products and services, your great reputation, competitive pricing, your great customer service? Will they start reciting features and functions based on your latest spec sheet so they can prove you are the best?
I really, really hope that’s not what happens, but I suspect it is. That’s the way most sales reps approach prospects, and it’s the exact wrong thing to do.
To understand why all you have to do is extend the scenario out a few hours. Your rep has left, and your prospect is now meeting with one of your direct competitors. The prospect asks the very same question: “Why should I buy from you?”
The response? Likely that rep will say everything yours did: how great their products are, how great their reputation is, how competitive their pricing is, how great their customer service is. They’ll recite the features and functions of whatever they’re selling.
In short, your sales rep and the competitor will have sounded exactly the same to the prospect, making it nearly impossible to distinguish between the two of you, and now the prospect defaults to price.
We call this the “commodity trap”, and it’s a very dangerous place to be.
Here a few techniques that you can coach into your sales reps immediately to help you avoid that insidious commodity trap:
1. Teach reps up to be less “me-focused”.
Notice that the instinctive first responses to “Why should I buy from you?” are “me-focused” -- my products, my services, my company...my, my, my. That has to change.
To stop sounding like every other salesperson on the planet, reps must learn to focus on the prospect, not themselves.
Consider the way a doctor diagnoses ailments. They ask good questions, they listen, they consider your specific situation, and then they offer their expertise and specialty in their effort to find a real solution. Sales reps should do the same -- seek to solve a problem instead of just suggesting that the prospect should buy from them.
2. Keep reps from trying so hard and sounding desperate.
A laundry list of reasons the prospect should buy from you sounds a little insecure, like a terrible first date where the other person is so intent on impressing you, so intent on “looking good,” that they fail to share anything meaningful or authentic about their lives or ask you to share anything about yours. We’ve all been on that uncomfortable date, and we all couldn’t wait until it was over.
When you coach your reps, do so in a way that helps them establish credibility and to leave a good impression with the prospect. The last thing you want is a rep that leaves a prospect squirming in their seats.
3. Level the playing field by being really honest.
If you’re truly interested in distinguishing your company from all the rest, your sales reps should be saying something like this: “We do many different things for clients, and I’m confident we’ll be able to find a solution for you, but right now, I don’t have a full understanding of your goals and objectives. Can I ask you a few questions so we can find out if I can help you?” How refreshing is that?
The prospect will immediately notice the difference between what the rep just
said and what every other salesperson says, and they will likely agree to the suggestion to talk in further detail. It is then that the sales rep can ask focused relevant questions that unveil the typical business and personal pain your company has a track record of eliminating.
Here’s another effective tactic: “When we talk with your counterparts at other companies, a lot of them tell us they are sick and tired of inventory shortages that keep them from shipping out orders on time. Is that a challenge that you also face?”
What do you notice here? First, this kind of question is carefully structured to connect to an issue that the rep knows is likely to arise in this specific person’s world. Second, this question is not focused on features and functions, but rather on the emotional response to a clearly identified business problem.
Remember, the approach your reps take to establishing trust and articulating business value is what truly distinguishes your organization from your competitors.
When your sales reps focus on the prospect or customers issues, establishing a strong peer-to-peer relationship early on, asking good questions, and admitting upfront that they don’t yet know whether or not it makes sense for the two of you to work together, they can quickly and effectively avoid the commodity trap and begin taking steps to building greater sales success.
For more tips on this or discuss how you can even further improve your sales methods, give us a call.