Being able to articulate differentiators is the single most important skill for any B2B sales professional. It’s often also the most difficult; that’s why a large part of your sales training is devoted to it. As you make that skill your own, you have to be critical and be aware that your competitors will be just as confident as you when they come out of their sales training. They will develop their pitch around different differentiators and try to convince your prospect those are more important than yours. Of course, selling then is about the right questioning to understand the client’s needs, and to get them to buy into your point of view rather than the competitor’s. I am sure your sales training addresses that, too. But so does your competitor’s training.
There is a powerful question that most sales trainings don’t teach you to ask. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, which is probably the reason why it gets overlooked not just by your sales team, but by your competitors, too. It’s single best question I’ve learned to ask, and has often lead to game-changing insights. It’s pretty straight forward: “Dear customer, thank you very much for deciding to go with us after such a thorough evaluation. What made you decide that way?”. I ask this question after every single win, and always learn something new – which I then take into my next pitch. For instance, when I worked at Responsys a couple of years ago, one new client told me she back-channeled with customers of the shortlisted vendors, and heard our SaaS solution never had unexpected outages. Also, our local support team was really helpful. The sales training I’d had didn’t mention these as differentiators, but once I learned these were differentiators, I made a point of telling prospects to focus on that during the reference calls they requested. Other customers would give me reasons that did align with our differentiators, but used their words, and provided a context that helped me understand the customers’ business even better (yep, even after the deal was won! Clients sometimes open up more to sales people after the decision is made). And it wasn’t just about the customer agreeing our offering was better – sometimes, this simple question would lead to insights around competitors’ strengths or sales tactics that nearly got them to sway the deal their way!
I think another reason this question hardly gets asked, is that sales people think it could reflect a lack of confidence. They believe clients decided to go their way because they were so good at convincing them about their differentiators. The win simply is a confirmation of the sales team’s awesomeness and since the client already signed, why take the risk of coming across so timidly? To not let overconfidence or ego get in the way of gaining such powerful insights, develop a good talk track and processes around that question. Maybe an Account Manager, or senior leader could own that conversation. Maybe even an outside party. Whatever you do, make it part of the sales process! You’ll see that new customers will appreciate the humble ask, and always are willing to help you do even better.