Whether you’re in a sales position for a Fortune 500 company or you’re a solo-preneur trying to market your services, sales can often feel like an uphill battle. Does it frustrate you that your under-bidding competition often gets the sale while you do all the up-front work prepping the prospect? If so, you’re not alone. The global economy produces phenomenal competition for goods and services and it’s hard to be heard above the noise.

There are a couple of things you can do to prevent this from happening—and they both revolve around how you see yourself and your product or service, as well as how you interact with prospects.

1. Don’t act like a commodity: If the outside world sees what you offer as a commodity that can be price-shopped, that’s where you’ll always end up. So how do you become the un-commodity in your niche? Dig down and find out what’s special and different about what you offer that appeals most to your target market. That might mean that you do a deep dive into your customer base with a questionnaire, or better yet pick up the phone (remember the app that all smart phones have pre-installed where you press a series of number and you can actually converse via talking) and call your best customers to ask them why they chose you—but you MUST find out the differentiators that demonstrate your value and make them an integral part of your brand message.

For instance, I recently heard about an organic chicken farmer who sells eggs primarily to local high-end restaurants. These restaurants could buy eggs from the cheapest restaurant supplier at less than half the price of his eggs. However, this guy knows his customers. He knows that the chefs in his market trade on the quality of their cooking—and he also knows that their top motivator is for their restaurant to be seen as a cut above all other restaurants of that type. So instead of selling his eggs as a commodity, he points out that his are hand-gathered and hand-delivered to the restaurant fresh from organically-raised, grass-fed chickens, and that the freshness and quality of each egg (both in taste and texture) is far superior to any other eggs on the market. The yolks and whites stand up; the shell is thicker; the vitamin content is greater; and the soufflés made from these eggs are the tastiest, fluffiest soufflés on the planet, guaranteed. He sells on his product quality and personal delivery service—not on price—a perfect match for his target audience’s needs. The result? Chefs gladly pay double or even triple the commodity price per dozen eggs because:

a. they want his door-to-door service.
b. the superior quality helps them produce a signature taste experience that has people coming back for more.

Think about what makes your product or service unique from your competitors in a way that makes your customers’ lives easier or helps them make more money. When you get to know their pain points, needs and desires, you can present what you sell as a unique fit with a value they’ll pay a premium for… then deliver results.

2. Concentrate on Relationships: You’ve heard me say before that people buy from people and companies they know, like and trust. So what do you think would happen to your sales numbers if you make relationship-building the priority rather than sales?

Successful companies treat their sales process more like networking and relationship building, and concentrate on educating and giving value rather than closing. Walk into any Apple store and interact with the staff, and you’ll see what I mean. An associate approaches you right away to welcome you and start a conversation. They find out what you’re needs are by asking lots of questions. They don’t try to push a product on you, but educate you on what their products do so you can make an informed decision. They pay attention to your facial expressions and body cues—and purposefully take a step back and let you think about things when you need to. Their mission is to help rather than sell, but they sell a lot!

What if everyone’s mission was to help rather than sell? Wouldn’t it be so much easier on you as a potential customer if you could find out anything you wanted about a product without feeling sales pressure? We like to discuss things face-to-face without having to put up defenses. We love it when people understand us and try to help us. And when we find a product or service that fits our needs precisely, we share that knowledge with our friends. Make it your top priority to build that kind of relationship with your customers and you’ll never have to compete on price again.

So take a look at how you view your product or service, and how your prospects, and the marketplace, view you. Try to avoid falling into the commodity trap by understanding your customer’s wants, needs and desires precisely. Use that knowledge to position your product or service as a unique value, and make it your mission to educate and build relationships rather than close a sale. When you make it a point NOT to compete on price, but on how well you develop relationships, sales come much more easily and naturally. Isn’t that the ultimate Return on Relationship, #RonR?

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