Book #2: It Only Takes 1%
As we all know, life is not fair. Selling is not fair either. The salesperson with the best product doesn’t always win the sale. It’s because every salesperson out there claims to have great service, high quality, and the best deal. As a result, customers are quick to commoditize these similar-sounding claims of greatness, and instead, gravitate toward companies and salespersons who can differentiate themselves in some way.
Fortunately, you don’t need to win by a lot. Most sales are won or lost by very small margins. That means you simply need an edge, a differentiable advantage that will set you apart from everyone else. That edge is what you will find in Tom Freese’s second book—100 chapters, each designed to give salespeople a one-percent advantage over their competitors. After all, it only takes 1% to have a competitive edge in sales.
Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. changed the face of American business when they wrote the book, In Search of Excellence. Before this book was published, corporate managers didn’t use phrases like “paradigm shift” or “belief systems,” and the now-popular concept of “thinking outside the box” was not something that people even thought about.
Why am I talking about the winds of change in corporate management? Because, in my opinion, the corporate sales function is ready for a similar “kick in the pants.” To me, it’s a little ironic that most of the sales training material being delivered today was developed 20+ years ago. I say ironic because I believe the selling environment has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. More companies are offering more solutions than ever before, and their sales forces are being challenged with smaller territories and larger sales quotas. Meanwhile, prospects and customers are being heaped with greater responsibility as their business environments are growing increasingly complex, which leaves them with considerably less time to investigate alternatives and make good business decisions. As a result, the days of sending salespeople out into the field with an outstretched hand and a smiling face are over. Everyone else who is competing for a larger share of your market is eager to earn the customer’s business too.
What about being more aggressive? That’s an idea. But consider this: the next time you receive a telephone call from a salesperson whose decided to be even more “aggressive” with you, do their chances of making a sale go up or down? I’m guessing that if you are like most people that the answer is down!
“Why don’t we just keep on teaching salespeople the same stuff that has been taught for the last 20 years?” one might ask. The problem is, teaching salespeople to sound just like everyone else who is also calling your same list of target accounts forfeits their competitive advantage.
Sounding just like everybody else should be the opposite of our objective. If you want to have opportunities to uncover needs and present solutions, you must first be able to differentiate your company, your products, and yourself. Customers today receive dozens of sales calls from countless sales callers, but they will only respond to a few; and only a small fraction of those ever turn into mutually beneficial business relationships. So, what makes a potential buyer take your call as opposed to your competitor’s call? Moreover, what makes them want to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns with you, as opposed to someone else?
Perhaps Lee Trevino, the famous professional golfer who won the U.S. Open in 1968, said it best. As he was strolling up the 18th fairway, with a two-stroke lead on the final day of the tournament, Trevino was joking with one of the photographers. This prompted one of the television announcers to ask him, “Lee, you are competing in one of the biggest golf tournaments of your career, but you don’t seem the least bit nervous. Why not?” Trevino casually replied, “Somebody has to win the tournament; it might as well be me.”
Well, guess what? Somebody has to win the sale too. Someone has to have a mutually beneficial relationship with the customer. Somebody is going to uncover their needs and then provide valuable solutions. And the customer is going to share their thoughts, feelings and concerns, with someone—therefore, that somebody might as well be you.