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Sales Differentiation: 19 Powerful Strategies to Win More Deals at the Prices You Want

Sales Differentiation: 19 Powerful Strategies to Win More Deals at the Prices You Want


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"If we don't drop our price, we will lose the deal."

That's the desperate cry from salespeople as they try to win deals in competitive marketplaces. While the easy answer is to lower the price, the company sacrifices margin—oftentimes unnecessarily.

To win deals at the prices you want,the strategy needed is differentiation. Most executives think marketing is the sole source of differentiation. But what about the sales function of the company? This commonly neglected differentiation opportunity provides a multitude of ways to stand out from the competition. This groundbreaking book teaches you how to develop those strategies.

In Sales Differentiation, sales management strategist, Lee B. Salz presents nineteen easy-to-implement concepts to help salespeople win deals while protecting margins. These concepts apply to any salesperson in any industry and are based on the foundation that "how you sell, not just what you sell, differentiates you."

The strategies are presented in easy-to-understand stories and can quickly be put into practice. Divided into two sections, the "what you sell" chapters help salespeople:

  • Recognize that the expression "we are the best" causes differentiation to backfire.
  • Avoid the introspective question that frustrates salespeople and ask the right question to fire them up.
  • Understand what their true differentiators are and how to effectively position them with buyers.
  • Find differentiators in every nook and cranny of the company using the six components of the "Sales Differentiation Universe."
  • Create strategies to position differentiators so buyers see value in them.

The "how you sell" section teaches salespeople how to provide meaningful value to buyers and differentiate themselves in every stage of the sales process. This section helps salespeople:

  • Develop strategies to engage buyers and turn buyer objections into sales differentiation opportunities.
  • Shape buyer decision criteria around differentiators.
  • Turn a commoditized Request for Proposal (RFP) process into a differentiation opportunity.
  • Use a buyer request for references as a way to stand out from the competition.
  • Leverage the irrefutable, most powerful differentiator...themselves.

Whether you've been selling for twenty years or are new to sales, the tools you learn in Sales Differentiation will help you knock-out the competition, build profitable new relationships, and win deals at the prices you want.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814439906
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 09/18/2018
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 377,819
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

When salespeople aren’t winning deals at desired levels or price points, executives and business owners turn to Lee B. Salz for help. Lee is a world-renowned sales management strategist and CEO of Sales Architects®. A recognized expert in Sales Differentiation, he specializes in helping salesforces, across all industries, win more deals at the prices you want.

A featured columnist in The Business Journals and a media source on sales and sales management, Lee has been quoted and featured in The Wall Street Journal, CNN, The New York Times, MSNBC, ABC News, and numerous other outlets. Lee is a frequently-sought keynote speaker and consultant on Sales Differentiation, salesforce development, hiring, onboarding, compensation, and other sales performance topics.

He is the bestselling author of the award-winning, bestselling books Sales Differentiation and Hire Right, Higher Profits.

Lee is a championship powerlifter and a graduate of Binghamton University. Originally from New York City and New Jersey, he now resides in a Minneapolis suburb with his wife, three kids, and two dogs. When he isn't helping his clients win more deals at the prices you want, you will find him on the baseball field coaching his boys.

Read an Excerpt



I appreciate you buying my book to help you refine your selling strategy. If you are like most people who buy a sales book, you are probably asking yourself what makes this author different from all the other sales consultants out there. After all, there are thousands of us. I can easily answer that question for you as I get asked it frequently. Simply put ...

I'm the best sales consultant in the world!

You read that right. I'm the best sales consultant in the world.

Love Me or Hate Me

As you read my differentiation statement, how do you feel about me? Are you excited to continue reading this book or have I just turned you off ? If there was a video camera on you, I bet I would have seen you make the same face a child makes when eating Brussels sprouts for the first time. Eww!

If I asked you to describe me based on my differentiation statement, would you describe me positively with expressions like knowledgeable, helpful, and expert? Or would you use words like cocky, arrogant, and pompous? Most people would select the latter.

Yet, don't you make the same misstep with your buyers? How do you think your buyers feel about you when you come marching into their offices preaching that your company and products are the best? Guess what? They feel the same way about you that you felt about me when I said I was the best.

When I introduced myself to you as the best sales consultant in the world, rather than endearing myself to you and exciting you to want to learn from me, I irritated you. I turned your eagerness to dive in and read my book into skepticism. You may have even wanted to return the book and get a refund. Given how you feel, consider how difficult your selling job becomes when you've annoyed your buyer.

When I present this "best" exercise to audiences, it's a fascinating experience. As I'm welcomed to the stage, I see smiles throughout the audience and excitement fills the room. When I take them through this "best" story, the smiles immediately turn to shock. "Did he really just say that he is the best sales consultant in the world?" The smiles return to their faces and they become intrigued as I related my use of "best" to their use of it with buyers. From the stage, the audience dynamic, from excitement to frustration back to excitement, is cool to watch because, like you, they get it now.

Turning Buyers Off

During my programs, when I ask salespeople to share their goals for a first buyer meeting, they say that they want to be different from all the other salespeople calling on the buyer. Yet, right in the first few minutes of the meeting, they say their company and products are the best, making them sound like every other salesperson.

In the history of business, no salesperson has ever said to a prospective buyer, "Our service is pretty good. Our technology is so-so. Our quality is ok. How many would you like to buy?" All salespeople describe what they sell as the best of the best of the best.

When salespeople say "best," they think they are building relationships and endearing themselves to their buyers, but their engagement strategy backfires — sometimes without them even knowing it. Instead of attracting buyers, they unintentionally repel them.

Why can't we say "best?" Because we can't prove it! I can't prove to you that I'm the best sales consultant in the world. Unless an independent study was conducted that analyzed every aspect of your product, your company, and your industry, you can't make a believable representation that WHAT you sell is the best. You may be able to say the word "best," but your buyers aren't buying it. What they are really thinking when you say "best" is, "Of course, she says her product is the best. She wants me to buy it, so she gets a commission check."

I once asked the CEO of a technology staffing company why buyers select his firm for development projects. He smiled. "Our people," he said. "We have the best people." He noticed that I had a look of disbelief on my face in response. I asked how he could prove that his people are the best. The CEO was perplexed.

"Do you think your competitors' salespeople say their people are the worst?" I asked further. At that moment, he realized his strategy to stand out in a very competitive market needed work. To win deals at the prices he wanted, he needed to flesh out a strategy such that buyers would perceive meaningful value.

Don't misunderstand my point about the word "best." Salespeople should be passionate about the companies they sell for and the products they represent. If, in your heart, you don't believe WHAT you sell is the best, you may be selling for the wrong company. However, being passionate about your company is not the same as making claims with no proof. This is one of the big reasons why the sales profession struggles to earn trust with buyers. The long history of salespeople making unfounded claims has led buyers to be skeptical.

Think about times when you've been on the buying side of the table and heard a salesperson describe her product as "best." Did you "buy" it? I'm guessing you didn't. My bet is you rolled your eyes and thought, "Here we go." You may have even challenged the salesperson on her "best" representation ... while you do the same thing with your buyers.

The One Person Who Can Say "Best"

I've spent an extended amount of time researching the "best" issue. Over several years, I searched the entire planet and found the one person in the world who can say "best" and buyers listen to the word as gospel. That person is someone you know. Actually, you know that person very well: That person is your client.

When clients describe your company and its products as "the best," buyers pay attention because it's believable. That's why you get referrals. That's also why buyers invest the time to talk with your references.

Consider this: You and your client both say your product is the best. When you say it to a buyer, it's meaningless. It's met with skepticism. When your client says it about you, it's meaningful and gives a buyer confidence in buying from you.

Stranger Influences

We've all bought from Amazon. Every item on the Amazon website has a glowing product description from the manufacturer. Yet, almost none of us put the product in our virtual shopping cart based on the product description. Before we buy, we read purchaser reviews. Reviews from complete strangers influence our decision of whether or not to buy.

My teenage sons play high school baseball. Every fall, they search online for their next bat for the upcoming season. Every bat, as described by the manufacturer, is the most durable, has the most "pop," and feels the lightest in your hands. Even at their young ages, they read the manufacturers' descriptions with a jaded eye. They read the reviews and those reviews affect their bat purchase decision. Great reviews lead them to say, "Dad, this is the best one!"

If you doubt that positioning "best" is a flawed sales strategy, try it with a procurement agent — a professional buyer — and watch the reaction. My prediction is that you will notice an eye roll, followed by a deep sigh of frustration, and a glance at her watch, setting this up to be a very short meeting.

Being Different

Given the goal of being different than all the other salespeople calling on this buyer, let's do just that. Be different! Don't refer to your product as "best" or say that it is better than the competition. Position "different" with your buyers in a meaningful way so they arrive at the conclusion that your solution is the best without you saying the word. For example ...

"I'm not going to tell you that our product is the best because I'm sure every other salesperson tells you that. Today, I will share with you some differences in what we offer that our clients find beneficial, and you can decide for yourself if those are meaningful to you."

That perspective sets the tone for a constructive, different meeting, so share it early in the conversation. This approach completely disarms buyers. They find it refreshing! It communicates, "Let's put down our swords and see if there is potential for us to do business together." It helps your buyer laser-in on the differences rather than having to mine for them.

Which differentiators should you mention? How do you position them in a meaningful, compelling fashion? There are countless ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. Positioning meaningful value of the differentiators you have in WHAT you sell is exactly what you'll learn in the next several chapters. The differentiators could be in the product or service you sell. They could be in the expertise your company possesses. They can even be found in the way you structure a contract.

The rest of this book teaches you how to put together your sales differentiation strategy so that you have the tools to effectively position different to win more deals at the prices you want. After reading this book, you may even say that Lee Salz is the best sales consultant in the world. Of course, that is much more meaningful than if I say it.

Each chapter concludes with the presentation of one of nineteen sales differentiation concepts that comprise this sales philosophy. These concepts serve as the backbone in the development of your sales differentiation strategy.


Position meaningful differentiation so buyers perceive your solution is "best" — without you saying the word.



When I first met the CEO of a large technology services company, I asked her who was responsible for differentiation in her company. She quickly said, "That's the job of the marketing department."

"You're partially right," I responded, "but what about the sales department?"

A puzzled look appeared on her face. She had not considered "sales" with respect to differentiation strategy.

The conversation with that CEO was not unique. Most executives think the sole responsibility for differentiation resides with marketing. They don't realize that there is a second accountable party for differentiation: the people in sales. When I share that there is a sales component to differentiation, most executives quickly agree with me because they think that marketing creates the differentiation strategy for salespeople to execute. However, they are missing a critical opportunity to help their salespeople win more deals at the prices they want.

Marketing develops and executes a strategy to build brand and name recognition, and to attract the masses with differentiation messaging. It has one-directional communication with prospective buyers through websites, collateral material, and trade shows. Marketing uses its virtual megaphone to amplify the company's differentiation story for all to hear. The thought behind this approach is that it paves the way for salespeople to have meaningful conversations with buyers. However, the differentiation strategy is incomplete. Marketing differentiation intrigues buyers to take a look at what you have to offer, but it does not pop the checkbook open.

Introducing Sales Differentiation

Marketing's role with differentiation is important, but you need another differentiation strategy to win more deals at the prices you want. That strategy is what I call "sales differentiation." It's an extension of the one that marketing develops. Unfortunately, however, it is rarely provided to salespeople. Unlike marketing differentiation, sales differentiation has two-directional communication with an individual, prospective buyer. Marketing differentiation intrigues buyers, but sales differentiation gets them to take action.

A sales differentiation strategy has two components. The first addresses WHAT you sell — the aspects of the offering. It identifies who would be interested in those aspects and when they would be interested. And it offers strategy on how to position those aspects in a compelling fashion.

The second component deals with HOW you sell. It addresses every interaction you have with buyers and provides ways to create a valuable, differentiated experience for them. From the initial contact, to face-to-face meetings, to presenting solutions, and even with a buyer's request for references, there are ways to stand out from the competition. Within HOW you sell sales differentiation strategy, there is an element that is often missed. It's YOU, the salesperson. Every salesperson has the potential to provide meaningful value to buyers in a multitude of ways beyond what their company brings to bear.

The components of sales differentiation empower you to personalize the buying experience such that people perceive meaningful value and buy from you at higher price points. Here's an example of marketing differentiation and sales differentiation working hand in glove.

Car Trouble

In the 1990s, luxury car brands like Lexus and Mercedes discovered they had a major problem. They had shifted their business model from selling cars to leasing them. When you sell a car, it doesn't come back to the dealership. When you lease one, it returns two or three years later. And you must sell it or become financially upside-down on the vehicle.

These car companies saw tremendous value in the returned cars, but also faced a major obstacle when trying to sell them at the prices they wanted. These cars were not new, and the marketplace had an established expression to describe them: "used cars." Used cars are often seen as old and damaged ... a jalopy, if you will. These luxury car companies contended that their returned cars were different and had greater value than a traditional used car. In most cases, the leased cars had low mileage and were in great shape.

To sell these cars at the prices they wanted, they needed to reach a different buyer with a different message. They needed to reach those people who could afford to purchase a new car, not necessarily a new luxury vehicle, but people with a stronger financial situation than those targeted for used cars. To that end, they created the moniker "certified pre-owned" for these cars. The differentiation strategy worked tremendously well. These were still "used cars," but through differentiation messaging, they were perceived by buyers as having more value. This strategy helped car companies sell these cars at the prices they wanted.

Coming back to the difference between marketing and sales differentiation, marketing differentiation intrigued buyers enough to consider a certified pre-owned vehicle. However, it was sales differentiation that led to a particular car being purchased. After all, buyers had numerous choices. They could have selected multiple cars on a Lexus lot or a Mercedes lot. They also could have purchased a new vehicle elsewhere. It was sales differentiation that led to each car being sold — converting intrigue into action.

Execution of the sales differentiation strategy was the burden placed on each car salesperson. They had to engage buyers in a way that allowed them to position meaningful differentiators. The discussed differentiators were different for each buyer based on who they were and what was important to them.

Sales Differentiation Dissected

As I mentioned earlier, sales differentiation involves two-directional communication with an individual, prospective buyer, while marketing differentiation offers one-directional communication. In two-directional communication, a buyer answers questions; the information she shares helps to provide the salesperson with the necessary tools for a sales differentiation strategy. The context of the questions and the responses to them direct the conversation between buyer and seller rather than "one-size-fits-all" messaging.

How do salespeople know what to ask prospective buyers and how to position differentiators if the company has not documented its strategy? They don't. That's why weak sales pipelines and lowering prices to win deals are rampant issues in most sales organizations.

The second part of the sales differentiation definition references "an individual, prospective buyer" rather than for the masses. This calls for salespeople to position relevant differentiation elements with a specific person rather than spewing the same pitch to everyone.

How do salespeople know which differentiators resonate with which prospective buyers and under what circumstances those matter without having a documented sales differentiation strategy in place? They don't. That results in prospective buyers feeling disconnected from salespeople and not buying from them. Being able to connect with a buyer is a critical factor for salespeople when it comes to winning deals at the prices you want.

In most e-commerce and some retail sales, marketing differentiation and sales differentiation converge because the expectation is that these transactions are conducted without a salesperson's involvement. In business-to-business selling, that is not the expectation. The need for sales differentiation justifies the core function of salespeople.


Excerpted from "Sales Differentiation"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Lee B. Salz.
Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Jeb Blount xv

Part I What You Sell 1

1 The Best Sales Consultant in the World 3

2 Differentiation Is Marketing's Responsibility, Isn't It? 9

3 The Root Cause of a Salesperson's Frustration 17

4 What Would You Pay for Something You Could Get for Free? 25

5 Finding Your Differentiators 31

6 Who Cares About Your Differentiators? 41

7 Are You Leaving Differentiation Open to Buyer Interpretation? 49

8 Whose Fault Is It When a Buyer Doesn't See Your Differentiated Value? 57

Part II How You Sell 63

9 Differentiating Through Your Selling Approach 65

10 Aligning Your Sales Differentiation Strategy with Decision Influences 73

11 Developing a Sales Crime Theory 81

12 The Most Important Sales Differentiation Tool 91

13 The Art of Query to Position Differentiators 101

14 Shaping Buyer Decision Criteria 115

15 Disrupting the Buying Process Through Sales Differentiation 125

16 Buyer Objections: An Opportunity for Sales Differentiation 135

17 Last Chance to Differentiate with Your Buyer 147

18 Keeping the Strategy Fresh 157

19 The Irrefutable Differentiator 163

Conclusion: Using Sales Differentiation to Get in the Door with Prospects 173

Sales Differentiation Concepts 183

Index 185

About the Author 190

Customer Reviews