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11 Aug

Your alienation is my differentiation.

Let’s be honest about it:

All sales is driven by self-interest. No matter how much the salesperson seems to care about you, no matter what script they’re running, along with various parlor tricks, nudges, and persuasion nuggets they’ve read from books… all of them are useless when you’re a perceptive customer who can see them following the conventional sales playbook from a mile away.

Most average salespeople have a planned sales pitch and sequence in mind.

The bad ones only create the illusion of listening to you, while in reality they’re just waiting for their cue to start talking again. And you can quickly spot this when they continue with their existing script after you’ve finished talking, without actually addressing any of your points. They’re always trying to steer a conversation back to their script, because they're operating from an intent to convert you, not from an intent to identify if you’re even the right customer, to begin with.

They’re operating from scarcity, not abundance.

But there is one thing that still continues to work in sales, despite everything: a truly differentiated product that “sells itself.”

However, today, a product that sells itself is almost a myth. With so many brands vying for our attention at any given moment, even a phenomenal product — if not marketed and sold well — can get lost in the noise and lose out to inferior products with better distribution.Then how can good messaging and sales really bolster a solid product?

By accentuating its differentiation.

Sadly, differentiation is a buzzword that’s thrown around in the marketing community a lot, so let me expand on what I mean when I say, “This offering is differentiated.”

As I’ve written earlier, a brand is a signal — a siren call — to those who are discontented with the status quo. To sell well, you need to be able to identify the cause of alienation these consumers feel with the status quo, build that in your product, and highlight it in your messaging.

A great sales pitch recognizes and celebrates its potential customers’ perspective that makes them feel alienated and says,

“You’re different, we’re different too. You feel this way, we feel this way too.”

People in your product category who feel alienated and feel that their needs aren’t being met by current offerings are your target group. These people feel different from everyone else. They feel like misfits. And good brands create a home for such people by offering a “fit” where the outside world cannot.

The way you get at the root of this alienation is by asking a bunch of counterintuitive questions that, on first glance, feel like they would work against you. But they don’t. These are mostly “why” questions like:

  • “Why are you on this call? What brings you here today?”
  • "Why is X a problem for you?"
  • “Feels like things are already working out for you. Then where’s the hiccup? What’s holding you back?”
  • “What makes this a hard problem to solve?”
  • "Why don't you just build it yourself?"

These are questions that seemingly go against the self-interest of the salesperson.

They throw your prospect off of their existing frame of, “Oh, this person will now try to sell their product to me,” and instead allow them to explain what their challenges around the problem were and share their deeper thinking and inclinations. They let the prospect identify where exactly they feel the alienation and what exactly they feel is missing in existing products.

Even if the prospect doesn’t end up buying from you, they will leave the call with much more clarity around the problem than they came in with. And this itself is a great value add that builds long-term trust in your brand.

Even if the person doesn’t buy from you today as they realize that what you’re offering may not be the right solution to their problem at this point in time, they will definitely talk about your product to others whose problems they feel are much better suited to it.

One of the most (if not THE most) important skills needed in sales is the ability to build and expand trust in a transaction. Identifying and targeting the root of alienation your target demographic feels with existing solutions is your way in. And the best sales doesn’t look like selling: it looks like belonging.

It looks like, “Oh, this person gets me.”

Additional reading for the curious:

Provide the fuel, not the spark.

Light is nothing, contrast is everything.

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