Everyone is Selling the Exact Same Unique Differences
Most product information sellers are operating in a time bubble. They are living on borrowed time. Their command of influence has slowly, episodically, sadly, slipped away for the last 15 years.
Customers can read information on your website faster than you can speak it. They do not need your input if you are just a promotional mouthpiece. If customers have specific product or industry questions they can just reach out on LinkedIn and post their questions privately at their own convenience without pressure and prejudice.
Information sellers are at the mercy of their mouth. They are masters of cognitive overload and being extraneous with their information. They are possessive of their information and their customer's attention. Bad combination. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to serve both masters at the same time.
Conventional sales people do not realize how they are so overly identified with themselves and their company. Their tagline might as well be me, myself and I. This happens because they just cannot hear themselves monopolizing conversations. Their behavior is so impulsive and compulsive. They live in an unobserved world where they see themselves as the key influencer, instead of their customer.
The big problem with information-centric sales people is their company may have exciting and innovative products and services, but they are made tired, old and trivial by stereotypical sales strategies. Their approach is too impersonal (it is all about me) and they have depersonalized the sales engagement for their customer. They do not realize that it is not information allocation and output that is important, it is information input and assessment that is all important. It is not exciting innovative products that carry the day, it is unexciting, troublesome, client problems that do.
At best product information selling creates only a placebo effect; strong enough to entertain and inform, but lacking any real consistent impact. Product pushing is just a wild card that sometimes connects and sometimes does not. Information sellers are trying to have it both ways and they cannot. They want to spread the gospel, but at the same time be strategic sellers. This style of selling is a thing of the past. By following their own star, information sellers are overreaching their effectiveness.
Product information selling is hugely popular because it lowers the barriers of entry. Any Tom, Dick and Harry with a smile and a winning personality can pump and dump. Their thinking goes as long as they play to their natural strengths, their weaknesses will not be a liability. Product-centered sellers play it straight and narrow. They rarely tempt fait. They never explore dark alleys where they could find unfavorable information that could kill the deal for them. They rarely find the truth because they are not willing to ask difficult questions. However, in all fairness, when all the stars are properly aligned, they do trip over favorable circumstance, and get their small share of business.
Product information sellers pray at the altar of their features and benefits. Because all companies are singing from the same hymn book, their supposedly unique features and benefits become a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies. It is self-congratulatory selling at its best. It is a complete marginalization and commoditization of their beloved value proposition, which leads them in the cold, and not surprisingly leaves their customers cold.
Feature and benefit selling is a slugfest that turns into a snooze fest. It is a sale strategy that is excellent in dispensing information stylishly, but falls woefully short in substance and relevance. Feature and benefit selling will strike a sensible customer as dialogue of the deaf. Most product-centered sales people look at their product proudly as a tool for bragging rights. You can imagine how this comes across to customers. Strategic sellers look at their product simply as a tool to ask strategic based questions.
On the receiving end of feature and benefit selling is a predominant position of customer disbelief. Few customers would dare to think that sales people's product assertions are not trumped up. Even if you can claim incontrovertibly an exclusive product solution, the proof lies in how believable one is, not whether the claim is correct. This is where the whole system falls down for 98% of sales people. They simply do not have the innate power of making customers believers.
Basically everyone is selling the same differences. At my seminars I have everyone stand up and say, as if they are at an AA meeting, my name is John Doe and my product and service is unique just like everyone else's. As soon as you begin to recognize this, you no longer get into a pissing contest of she said he said, you are not perceived as playing fast and loose with your facts, and you no longer are seen as a self-centered drone.
Feature and benefit sellers end up just swimming in circles against the tide. They remind me of the old joke about the joke convention where everyone knows the joke so well that all a joke teller has to do to get people to predictably laugh is shout out the number 22
Traditional sales people are wearing nothing but the emperor's new clothes. They are oblivious to the self-destruction of their own good intentions. They believe as if it is their manifest destiny that they hold the high ground with all their impactful and invaluable information. When in fact, so often it is looked upon as a fairy-tale.
Feature and benefit windbags fight over scarce resources. They are fighting for dominion and all they get is picked over scraps. They are fighting on a level playing field where differentiation is close to impossible to prove. They do not realize that beauty (quality) is in the eye of the beholder. They do not find out what the customer's unique perspective is on their problems, because they are so busy trying to make their own offering attractive and unique.
Feature and benefit sales people start at the end of the story, their solution. The beginning of the story (customer challenges) are too boring and pedestrian for them. They simply cannot be bothered. Their task of making believers is the reason for them being in sales and by God they are not going to screw up the one thing that they truly believe in the most. Yet the customer wants them to believe in their story, and invest some sweat equity into their most pressing problems, by understanding the ins and outs of their business.
Information peddlers are like—here is my advice before you even asked for it. They are fixers of the worst type. For selling to work efficiently it helps for it to be a consensual process, an opt-in agreement, sort of like permission marketing. It is doomed to fail if it continues the way it it has been mastered by most orthodox sales people; an involuntary process.
If happiness is getting out of one's way, then true selling is getting out of the way of your product. Do not let it define you, because as soon as you do you limit your role, insight and value in a sales call. Strategic sellers do not use information to make up the power imbalance in a sales call. It just aggravates it more. They use information as a tool to get more information. They use it as a tool for further inquiry into getting to know the customer's problem story. They use it primarily as the beginning point of the conversation, instead of a means to an end.