When I need to get a project done around the house, there are a variety of tools I use. I’ll generally figure out which tools I need to get the job done, will head out to the garage and collect what I think I’ll need, then take them to whatever project it is that I’m working on.
Invariably, I find that one of the most common tools I use is my cordless power drill. I use it to, of course, drill, but I also use it to screw in anchors, screws, and bolts. Just about every project I work on has a use for my cordless power drill and it’s by far my favorite tool.
Here’s a compelling question: What sales tools do your salespeople use and what are their most effective? What is it that they use most commonly that helps them gain the sale? Do you even know? If not, you should find out. Understanding sales tools and how to use them is rarely worked on within today’s sales organizations because of the urgency to “be out there selling.”
Understanding and using various sales tools is often what sets successful sales organizations apart from those that know they can do better. But where to start?
There’s one sales tool that is consistently and most successfully used by the best salespeople and it boggles my mind that more sales people don’t use it. It’s the tool of ‘compare and contrast.’
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As a sales tool, compare and contrast is a differentiator. It’s used to create a compelling reason why your prospect should purchase your company’s product or service rather than a product or service they’re either currently using or are considering using.
For your salespeople to effectively use the compare and contrast sales tool, there are three things they’ll need to learn. 1.) Who the prospect is currently using (or considering using), 2.) what it is the prospect likes about their current (or future) provider and, 3.) what it is the prospect is unsatisfied about with their provider. This is necessary information your salespeople need up front to effectively use the compare and contrast tool and it’s typically gained in the needs analysis process up front.
Once I’ve learned these three things through my needs analysis, I’ll generally state that I’m very familiar with their current provider- because I always am. I’m always intimately familiar with my competition as should your salespeople be. Stating that I’m familiar with my prospect’s provider gives me instant credibility when I launch into my compare and contrast statement. Without a familiarity of their competition, it’s easy to sound as though your salespeople are making things up on the spot rather than having a real understanding of the competition. In addition, your salespeople risk coming off as bashing another company’s product or service which can be interpreted as questioning the the prospect’s decision-making. Certainly not a place I would want my salespeople to go.
Starting with understanding what it is my prospect likes about my competition, I can compare my product or service favorably to theirs. To illustrate my point, let me use an overly simplistic example. Let’s say I’m selling staplers and I’ve learned that my prospect likes black staplers. I’ve also learned that my prospect likes how their staplers will hold a large number of staples and that their staplers can curl the staples either in or out. Knowing this, I’ll make a favorable comparison between my stapler and their stapler pointing out that mine also comes in black, it also holds a large number of staples and can curl the staples either in or out. I’m favorably comparing my stapler’s features to the features the prospect likes about the stapler they’re currently using.
Through knowledge of what it is my prospect dislikes about my competition, I can contrast my product or service to them. To find this out, I’ll usually ask something to the effect of, “What is it you wish your current stapler does better?” I’ve learned that my prospect feels like their stapler isn’t as sturdy as they would like, that over time it seems like their staplers lose their springy-ness, and that they have a tendency to have staple jams. So based on this knowledge, I create a contrast by letting the prospect know that I sell a premium stapler that is made of reinforced metal, has the best spring mechanism in the industry, and is guaranteed never to have a staple jam.
Using this knowledge of likes and dislikes, my compare and contrast statement might go something like this: “Mr. Smith, I’m very familiar with Acme Staplers. They’ve been selling staplers for over 60 years. Like Acme, our staplers also come in black, hold 75 staples, and can curl staples inward or outward. These sound like they’re all very important to you. But unlike Acme staplers, Stellar staplers are made of reinforced steel so they have a solid feel when you staple papers. And since Stellar staplers have an improved spring that has been recognized as the best in the industry, you’ll never feel like your stapler has lost its springy-ness. Plus, our staplers come with a guarantee never to jam. Based on the features I’ve described, does it sound like Stellar staplers will give you a much better stapling experience?”
There are a few significant things I’ve done in my short little compare and contrast statement. First, I’ve highlighted that because my product shares the features they’re looking for, they won’t be missing out on anything by purchasing my product. This alone won’t win me the sale but it does provide reassurance that my product or service compares favorably to that which they’re currently using. Second, I’ve helped my prospect come to the realization that there is a certain level of dissatisfaction they have with their current product or service. This plants doubt in their mind about why they’re still using their current product or service. This is what many sales professionals refer to as “uncovering the prospect’s pain.” Third, I’ve stated that my product fulfills the needs or wants they have that their current product doesn’t. Essentially, I’ve stated that my product will remove their pain.
Finally, I always make sure to conclude my compare and contrast statement with a trial close, usually in the form of a question, based on the evidence I’ve just presented.
This compare and contrast process sets up the close and possible objections. The short version of the close would be something like this, “Mr. Smith, since our stapler has all the features your current stapler has plus has many of the features you would like to have, it sounds like it makes sense to start using Stellar staplers. Let’s go ahead and get you started with a dozen staplers today.”
Now at this point a salesperson needs to be prepared to field an objection because a natural response when asked to purchase on the part of any prospect is to raise an objection, even if it’s simply to raise an objection. But once your salesperson has clarified the objection, they can always refer back to their compare and contrast argument. (“So Mr. Smith, if I understand you correctly, you feel you need to speak with your boss about purchasing new staplers. You had stated earlier that you’re the one who makes all stapler purchasing decisions. Would it be fair to say that the same things that are important to you are important to your boss? Yes? Based on what’s important to you both, would it be fair to say that he/she would feel that purchasing Stellar staplers is a good business decision?”)
The compare and contrast sales tool helps the salesperson by finding the prospect’s point of pain, learning what their likes and dislikes are, uncovering their needs, and, most importantly, differentiating your product or service from your competition.
One thing I need to stress in order to use the compare and contrast sales tool effectively is that your salespeople need to have a strong understanding of your competitors. They need to understand their strengths and weaknesses and what makes your product a better purchase than theirs.
It should also be mentioned that if your product and your competitor’s product are virtually the same and the only thing that sets you apart is price, the compare and contrast tool isn’t going to help you. Comparing and contrasting is only useful when you can highlight features and benefits that make a compelling argument for your product or service over another company’s product or service.
To be more successful, encourage your salespeople to do 4 things; 1.) Spend the time necessary to learn your competition inside and out, 2.) determine how your product or service compares and contrasts favorably (and unfavorably) to your competition, 3.) role play comparing and contrasting using your product or service, and 4.) use the compare and contrast tool in every sales call.
This one sales tool can be used for virtually any product or service. Whether it’s selling cars, IT service, real estate, office space, or virtually any other thing you can possibly sell, compare and contrast is your most valuable sales tool.