Roy Chitwood Article  

"Why should I buy from you?"

is one of the most important yet often unasked and unanswered questions the buyer has on his mind -- and rightfully so.

With the inherent at-odds relationship between buyer and seller, this question routinely can be a deal determiner. Accordingly, a salesperson must ensure the prospect clearly understands the difference between similar offerings. In our training programs, salespeople regularly cite this question as one of their biggest hurdles. We teach salespeople to resist their temptations to list the obvious -- including price, quality, client list or company history -- because they've become givens. If a salesperson's offering or company is short on any of those, getting sales will be a continuous struggle.

We recommend that salespeople replace this temptation and answer with their own unique selling proposition, or USP. USPs differentiate a company in more breadth and depth than price, quality and so forth, and are highly specific and unique, making them powerful selling tools.

The following are a few of the most common USPs. I encourage you to consider developing those relevant to your company and offering, and then use them regularly.

Knowing your customers' customers. The more vertical understanding you have of your clients' business, the more you will sell. I recommend you take a "big picture" approach to servicing your clients. Rather than narrowly focusing on only meeting your clients' needs, broaden your outlook to include their business goals and objectives. If you can align your product or service with your clients' overall business strategies, it will become more valuable and might differ greatly from solely a needs-focused recommendation.

Generating prospects. By this, I mean prospect/provider matchmaking. At every opportunity, move beyond being only a product or service provider by matching your client's needs with products and services offered by your other clients. If one of your clients is a specialized database software developer and another has mentioned the problems she's having using her old, unstable database, why not introduce them? You'll be providing a valuable service to both and will gain more of their trust and confidence, further solidifying your position.

Offering free training and support. A common complaint among many buyers is not understanding how to fully use a product or service they've purchased or inherited. Many salespeople fail to ask a client whether he wants to be trained to use what he has purchased. This is perplexing and isn't good business. Make it a practice to follow up with a client in person after he has received her order and run her through its use. Make it an informal, purely informational meeting and stay until he is completely comfortable using it. This will gain his respect and demonstrate that you're committed to meeting his needs, not just to earning a commission.

Providing return-on-investment proof through case studies. ROI is the reason people buy, and it must be proved. Third-party endorsements are a good way to prove ROI, with case studies being the most effective. Case studies outline a specific challenge one of your clients was facing; shows how your product or service helped the client meet the challenge; and quantifies the result, or ROI. A client's third-party status in combination with his real-world application makes him a prized resource who should be used strategically but liberally.

Adding value through your personal knowledge and experience. This is the most important, unique and effective USP you have -- you. The lines among price, quality and performance are becoming so blurred that your personal expertise must be used to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Position yourself as an expert, a consultant, a partner, and you'll prove too valuable to lose.

As Tom Peters states: "Be distinct or extinct." Tough competition, shrinking budgets and unclear needs are among a few of the many selling obstacles you face. Being able to share you and your company's unique USP will help you more easily overcome them, paving the road to more sales.    

Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.