A few years ago, I sat down to a delicious meal prepared by my parents (well, mostly prepared by my mom, but when dad is on the grill, he gets some credit too). I remarked on how fresh the bread tasted. My dad took the compliment, and said that he picked it up at Great Harvest.

Suddenly, he had a far-off look in his eyes.

“Back in the day”, he started, “my family would only buy bread from the Brenner Brothers. They were the best. But it wasn’t just about the quality of their bread.”

“What else was it?” I asked.

He explained that the whole Brenner family worked there. The couple that founded the shop ran the joint, but their children and cousins were either in the kitchen, behind the counter, or out on delivery. He’d walk through the door and from behind the counter, Lee would shout, “Hi Stevie, what are you looking for today? The usual? Something special? Let me help you!”

Reminiscing, my dad said, “They were such a hard-working bunch that just made you feel special. My family never even thought about buying bread from another bakery.”

Out of all the stories that my dad began with “Back in the day”, this one had a message that is truly significant in today’s commodity selling market. Mom and Pop Shops may no longer exist in the same abundance as they did 40 years ago, but does that mean their stories are irrelevant?

What would happen if we learned what made them successful and applied it to our own businesses?

Of course, we must take into account how the nature of selling a commodity has changed since those simpler times. Globalization has increased competition in every industry; remember fidget spinners?

Well, a search for “fidget spinner” on Amazon turns up approximately 16,500 results, which come from thousands of different companies. When thousands of organizations, all across the world, are selling the same product or service as you, what’s a business to do?

The numbers are daunting, but this increased competition should be embraced. When you aim for your company to stand out among thousands of others rather than among just a few, the end result can be astounding. A company’s value will be that much stronger simply because its success depends on being uniquely better than the countless other options that exist.

It’s clear that communicating value and creating preference is more crucial now than ever before. So, how do we achieve that?

Here are 4 tips to get you started:

1.   Dive Into the Pain and Know Your Competition

Identify your prospects’ most hindering complications. Ask about their day-to-day work, or their current business partnerships. If even a small problem exists, the right line of questioning will uncover the key to making a solid sale.

The prospect may tell you that they’re sick of all the paperwork holding them up, or that one of their current suppliers is not living up to their expectations. Reflect on how you, your product, or your service could relieve the prospect of his or her problems.

Allow the prospect to express their frustrations, and then dig deeper into their pain points. Ask questions like:

  • How do you think this issue affects you personally?
  • How could it be affecting your department and the company overall?
  • In your opinion, how could this issue be resolved?

Dig into the pain. Doing so will accomplish a couple of things. First, your prospect will realize that it’s time for a change. Second, you’ll know exactly how to play up the aspects of your offering that will truly resonate with your prospect.

The first step to great commodity selling is taking the time to understand your prospect’s situation. In this way, you can begin to differentiate your offering from all the others that the prospect might be considering. Knowing your competitors’ advantages and flaws means that you can strategically communicate with your prospect, thus elevating your product or service to the top of their list.

This kind of discovery call can help a salesperson decode a prospect’s needs, and then come up with a tailored solution.

2.   Focus on Value and Results

Explaining a product offering’s benefits to a potential customer is another way of communicating its value.

While communicating a product’s features remains important, effectively communicating the offering’s benefits is indispensable.

Let me illustrate this for you:

An older woman walks into a T-Mobile store and tells the sales representative that she thinks it may be time for her to invest in a cell phone. She jokes that her children and grandchildren poke fun at her for not having one.

Which of the following potential responses from the sales rep is best?

  • “This smartphone holds up to 50 GB of space. It’s our largest model and has face-recognition technology. You can download virtually any app from the App Store onto it!”
  • “This smartphone holds up to 50 GB of space, which means you can take as many high-quality photos as you like, and you can store as many personal contacts as you want. It has a very large screen, so it’s really easy to read text messages and e-mails. The face recognition feature ensures that you’re the only person who can access your phone, which means that if you somehow lost it, none of your personal information could be stolen. Also, if you want to see updates from your grandkids, you can log onto Facebook from your phone instead of just from your desktop computer.”

While not perfect, the second response is better than the first, because it explains how the features can benefit the older woman’s life. If the sales rep had only relayed the information in the first response, the prospective customer probably wouldn’t have had any idea of what that meant, and may have even been too overwhelmed to go through with buying a smartphone at all.

By emphasizing the benefits of the product or service, you’re communicating value and painting a picture of the end result for your prospect to visualize. Implementing this strategy empowers you to convey the somewhat intangible benefits that make your company or product unique.

3.   Build Trust

Trust is arguably the most important component of any kind of relationship. The actions you take, the words you speak and the way you speak them all contribute to either a great, bland, or bad relationship.

To build trust, you have to follow through on your promises, be loyal, and provide value in a multitude of contexts; these can range from producing a quality product to checking in with your customers to see how business is doing, or how your product can better assist them in achieving success.

Your degree of trustworthiness—as determined by the relationships you tend to—morphs into a reputation. We all know those people in our lives that maybe have questionable reputations, but we also know people and companies who consistently prove their good reputations to be true.

If you zero in on fostering trust from the get-go, and maintain that trust through thick and thin, selling a commodity should come easier. Considering the reputation you’ve developed over time, others will know whom to call when they need a product or service from someone they can trust.

4.   Get Everyone On Board and Hold Them Accountable

Hold training sessions and programs for your salespeople so that they learn how to make the change from a transactional approach to a consultative one. This style of commodity selling is more inquisitive and customized. It assumes that the prospect isn’t solely focused on price… or that the prospect won’t be after they’ve learned about your offering’s special benefits!

All roles within your marketing and sales departments—SDRs, MDRs, AEs, managers, and C-level executives—should be on the same page. All need to work together to communicate value and create preference without emphasizing price.

Transitioning from transactional to consultative selling isn’t a “quick-fix.” To ensure that the new and improved culture of the sales and marketing efforts persists, engage in regular quality control.

It’s as easy as emailing prospects and customers a survey that evaluates the salesperson on how helpful, knowledgeable, resourceful, respectful, and genuine he or she has been throughout the business relationship. Not only does this help your company determine areas that can be improved upon, but it also shows people that your company is serious about their experience as customers.

Today, commodity selling on the total value of your offering requires a workforce that’s in-sync, trustworthy, inquisitive, and committed to a solution-centered sales approach. Each of these 4 tips advances your ability to communicate value and create preference.

Which of the 4 tips does your organization currently use? Which of the 4 could your organization improve upon?

  • Miguel Angel Abarca

    Great article with valuable recommendations! And at the end, if your product or service´s features and advantages do not add any value (offering the same benefits as your competition); the main competitive advantage is you! That´s why building TRUST is so important. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  • Barry Hall

    Many thanks Matt for a great post. Really enjoyed reading it. – Barry.