Are we talking about Beans, Pork Bellies or Gold? How about Bread, Beans and Copy Paper?
The reality is most salespeople tend to turn a very unique product/service into a commodity in the buyers mind. As a result, the sale ends up being a price war and much harder work than it need be.
Now what is meant by "commoditizing" a product or service? …..
Most buyers would agree those items such as bread, beans, gasoline, copy paper and other high volume and daily use products are considered being "commodities". In general, these are not necessary sold on value but rather bought on price. There are many sources for these "commodities" and generally, the competitive sales point is price.
When your customer looks at your product/service, is the conversation all about price? Is it about the best deal they can get? Is it about leveraging you against your competition? These are all indications that your product/service has become "commoditized" in your customers mind!
Therefore, if your buyer is looking at your product/service as a commodity you will need to evaluate how you are selling it!
Here is a personal example: All of us end up using the bathroom in a high quality restaurant or hotel from time to time. Personally I have had toilet paper that shredded, so light you wondered if you had any, rougher than cardboard and of course soft sturdy stuff that really worked. I am sure the Ladies can relate.
Now I had a great room and steak, but the experience in the bathroom reduced my "total customer experience". "Such a great place and they skimp on the TP! Why?"
Why, because the salespeople have "commoditized" the item known as TP. "I can supply that stuff for less per case." Is the pitch and the buyer says great. Neither the salesperson nor the buyer consider the impact on the end user and on the experience provided. (Could have a pun here)
Who has failed here? I say the salesperson has!
The salesperson has taken the easy way out and not assisted the buyer in viewing the total impact of their choice. Rather than engage the buyer in a conversation about their guests experience and the image each and every item has on that experience, they drop the price bomb and create a negative for all parties.
Here are some ways salespeople end up "commoditizing" their products.
· Always approaching and discussing price and how to lower the price or save quick money.
· Doing similarity comparisons, their product and the competition are similar in this way.
· Always presenting facts/features/benefits rather than discussing end results.
· Shortcutting the buying process to get a quick sale.
· Hearing only the common words and missing the key ideas the buyer is conveying.
· Being unwilling to alter their approach and process, thus being very predictable to the buyer.
Should you discover you or your sales team doing any of these, stop immediately! It is costing you PROFIT! This I also allowing competitors in, reducing buyer loyalty and the buyer views you as just another salesperson pushing commodities. Is that what one really wants?
To un-commoditize your product/service the consultative, results oriented salesperson takes a different approach.
First, the focus is not on the product such as TP. Rather the focus is on understanding the buyer, business and what they are trying to accomplish with the business. The salesperson knows every choice has an impact on other areas. Their job is to help the buyer clearly see and understand the total impact of their choices.
Here are some of their actions:
· Open questions, open questions that cause the buyer to think.
· Emphasize the uniqueness they provide and how it adds value for the buyer
· Causes the buyer to view all the impacts to the business and guests
· Communicates value added versus low price
· Is unwilling to compromise their value and company values for price
· Understands the strongest position in negotiations is the ability to walk away
· Focuses on long-term productive relationships versus short term sales
· Creates opportunities for the buyer to make great choices and look good.
The challenge is not being caught up in the commodity talk, even if the buyer uses commodity language. The Salespersons job is to steer clear of the commodity approach and direct the buyer to a results and opportunity oriented discussion.
If one is on guard against commoditzing their product, then even TP can become an important part of a total customer experience!
What kind of outcomes can your product/service provide for your customer that keeps it from being a commodity? List a dozen and then use those outcomes in all your selling conversations. It will amaze you how your customers respond!
© Harlan Goerger 6-09
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