By Paul Reilly

In our latest survey, we asked salespeople if it’s harder to differentiate their products, their company, or themselves as the salesperson. Fifty-four percent of salespeople indicated that it’s hardest to differentiate their products. Yet, salespeople still focus their presentation on product—the most commoditized part of their solution.

When you’re trying to differentiate your total solution, don’t focus on the most commoditized aspect of the solution; focus on the unique aspects of your value-added solution. Sell your personal value. Selling product alone opens the door to too much competition. In our seminars, we teach salespeople to answer three questions for the buyer:

• Why this product?
• Why our company?
• Why me?

Most salespeople focus on the first question and ignore their company’s value and their value as a salesperson. Our research shows that the salesperson represents 25 percent of the total value of a solution. So, if you are not answering the “why me” question, you are ignoring 25 percent of the reason your customer buys. If your competitor does a better job answering the “why me” question, they are giving the buyer 25 percent more of a reason to work with them instead of you.

In our best sales practices (BSP) study, we asked customers to describe top-achieving salespeople they worked with. In essence, these customers were saying, “This is why I buy from these salespeople.” When you’re answering the “why me” questions, here are three points to emphasize.

Knowledgeable Expertise

Knowledgeable expertise is critical in a value-added sale. Our BSP study indicates that it is the number-one attribute customers look for in a salesperson. Customers expect you to know the answers to their questions. If you’re not the expert on your solution, then you are missing an opportunity to add value.

Buyers expect you to know your products, your company, and your industry. Provide the buyer with meaningful insight early in their buying process. Ask the buyer the questions they didn’t think to ask themselves.


Demonstrate your professionalism to the buyer. Professionalism means you look and act the part. Conduct yourself with integrity. Hold yourself to the highest standards of your profession. Make the customer think, “I wish every salesperson that called on me was as professional as they are.”

In our study, customers described professional salespeople as passionate and persistent. Professionalism begins with the right attitude. If you view yourself as professional, you will behave as a professional.

Results Oriented

In this study, customers indicated that top-achieving salespeople produce results for them. Customers said, “They get us product when we need it.” Or, “They save us time or money.” Top-achievers produce results for their customers.

If you’re just selling product, there is too much competition. Sell yourself. You bring 25 percent of the total value. When selling your personal value, emphasize your knowledgeable expertise, your professionalism, and your ability to deliver results. Be the benchmark by which every other salesperson is graded.

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