Distributors can differentiate their total solution. One
way is to help customers understand the complexity of their
needs. In Value-Added Selling, we call this de-commoditizing your solution. Here are some tips to help you get past
the commodity trap and de-commoditize your solution.
Focus On Solving Problems,
Not Quoting Projects
There is no commodity in creativity. For every problem
your customer experiences, there is a unique solution. Yet
salespeople focus on quoting projects instead of problem
solving. When you just quote projects, you’re viewed as a
commodity supplier providing commodity solutions.
I’m reminded of how one industrial salesperson made
problem solving part of every call. He would meet with
customers and satisfy their immediate need, but he would
always end his calls the same way. He would ask, “In addition to that, what other problems are you currently experiencing?” He positioned himself as a problem-solver, not
a “project-quoter.” When you just quote products, you’re
traveling down a commodity path. Rather than quoting
commodity products, solve the underlying problem. Lead
with a non-traditional solution and sell the concept, not
just the commodity product.
In a recent seminar, one salesperson shared an example
of selling a concept instead of a commodity product. Their
buyer requested a 5 percent discount on commodity safety
gloves. This request was part of an overall cost reduction
initiative. But rather than selling discounted commodity
gloves, they sold the customer on a new concept.
The salesperson sold the customer on a new inventory
management program. This new program gave the customer greater visibility and accountability on glove usage. Each
employee was given an ID card which they presented every
time they needed a pair of gloves. This level of accountability immediately dropped their overall usage. The salesperson said, “Rather than saving them a nickel on a pair of
gloves, I saved them the whole dollar. They started buying
fewer gloves.” The salesperson figured out a better way to
solve the customer’s underlying issue by selling a concept.
De-commoditizing your solution requires running a different race. Stop dedicating your resources to high-volume,
low-margin commodity opportunities. These are opportunities everyone is going after. This business might feel like
a win, but look at the numbers. How much net profit is
The riches are in the niches. Find those unique problems
the customer is experiencing. Then de-commoditize your
solution by offering the customer a unique solution. These
problems might not be on the surface, but they exist. By
creatively solving problems, you differentiate your solution.
There is no commodity in creativity.
Paul Reilly is president of St. Louis-based Reilly Sales
Training, a privately-owned company specializing in training sales professionals, sales managers and service professionals by offering public seminars, in-house sales training
programs and hiring and training assessments. Contact
Paul at 636-778-0175 or Paul@ReillySales Training.com.
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