The Myth of Great Quality and Top-Notch Service – by Kelly Riggs

It never fails. Salespeople simply don’t realize how poorly they represent their products. They fail to understand that, from the first words that come out of their mouths, they are usually undermining their ability to capture their prospect’s imagination. More importantly, they are giving away margin!

How? By failing to understand the concept of differentiation and how to capitalize on  competitive advantages.

Initial sales calls involve a certain amount of discovery – a series of predetermined questions designed to elicit critical information. Great salespeople master this process. They are able to create a productive dialogue that reveals underlying buying motives and performance gaps that can be addressed when the time comes for a full-blown solution presentation. However, at some point in these early sales calls, the salesperson has to introduce his/her company and the solutions they provide. At this point, most salespeople have the tendency to become very average.

Here’s what I mean – ask any salesperson why you should buy from them and you get predictable answers:

“We have great quality products.”
“We have the best customer service in the industry.”
“We’re the best…the leader…No. 1…blah, blah, blah.”

Dress it up any way you want, these are the top three answers in a landslide.  I know because I ask. Every time I work with a group of salespeople, I ask: Why should I buy from you? I go around the room and get answers. And I get the same answers – over and over:

“Our solutions are technically superior to our competitors.”
“We are dedicated to exceeding our customer’s expectations.”
“We’ve been in business over fifty years.”

Great quality. Top-notch service. Superior solutions. Commitment to excellence. Exceeding customer expectations. Blah, blah, blah.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Terri Langhans speak. She is a former CEO for a national advertising agency with over twenty years experience in marketing. The name of her company is Blah Blah Blah, Inc.  No kidding – check her out at http://www.blahblahblah.us. Here’s what she says in her excellent book, The 7 Marketing Mistakes Every Business Makes:

A lot of people I work with pound their fists and righteously proclaim how different, better, faster, experienced, specialized and/or affordable their products and services are. They think that quality, service and value sets their business apart.

A lot of them also think the Statue of Liberty is in New York.

Wrong on both counts. Quality, service and value get you in the game; they don’t make you unique. And the Statue of Liberty is technically located in New Jersey.

Get the picture? Even if you do have great quality and great service (which is often debatable), it doesn’t do you a bit of good to say so in such a generic way. The reason is simple: that is exactly what everyone else says.

Great quality? Might be true. Doesn’t really matter.

Actually, it matters if you know how to present it, but in offering up such generic claims, you have done two things, both of which are very bad. First, you have sent the message that you are just like your competitors. You sound like them, make the same baseless claims, and generally fail to differentiate yourself in any meaningful way. Second, because you are no different than your competitors (in the customer’s perception), you have created the best possible scenario for the customer – they get to choose from three (or more) acceptable vendors who will provide exactly what they need.

The only thing left to negotiate is price. Congratulations. You get to give away margin in order to win a deal.

Oh, wait. You told your customer how much better your product was? You showed your customer all the things they get from you they can’t get from your competitors? Sorry. Although product differentiation may occasionally win you a sale, the reality is that your feature-feature-feature sales presentation simply reinforces the notion that you’re just like your competitor.  Your competitors typically do exactly the same thing (unless you are unfortunate enough to compete against a serious pro) and they are making the same points – with features YOU don’t have.

The result? Your customer gets to decide how much to pay for which features. When the customer finally decides which product they want, they simply use the other competitors prices to negotiate a better deal. After all, each of you has great quality, top-notch service, and are dedicated to exceeding their expectations.

So, let’s try again.  Why should I buy from you?

Kelly Riggs is the founder and president of Vmax Performance Group, a business performance improvement company located in Broken Arrow, OK. Widely recognized as a powerful speaker and dynamic trainer in the fields of leadership, sales development, and strategic planning, Kelly is an author, speaker, and business performance coach for executives and companies throughout the United States.

A national award-winning sales representative and sales manager, Kelly has spent the last fifteen years teaching and training organizational leaders in sales and executive management. He is a Registered Corporate Coach with the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC), and currently serves as a leadership and business development trainer for the Associated General Contractors and the Construction Leadership Council (Oklahoma). He has also appeared before a subcommittee of the Oklahoma State House of Representatives to present “Factors That Impact Employee Engagement and Performance.”

Kelly has written extensively for numerous industry publications, and his first book, “1-on-1 Management™: What Every Great Manager Knows That You Don’t,” was released in 2008. His second book, “1-on-1 Selling™: How to Win More Sales, Defend Your Margins, and Build Your Brand,” will be published in 2012.