Posts belonging to Category Sales Strategies for Black Sales People

Selling a Commodity? The Difference is You!

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As a sales professional you sell what you are given to sell.  When the company that you are representing is selling a commodity, or something near to a commodity, you have to put forth some extra effort to land the business.

While there are a lot of products out there that “sell themselves”, you may have a product that is as inauspicious as salt.  I am going to talk a little about some ways to get the “edge” in the sales process.


Salt Might be Just Salt, but ‘You’ are Different!

The majority of products do have features that provide benefits that others do not necessarily have.  Commodity products are literally indistinguishable from their peer products.  Know how different your product is, if the customer views your products as “the same” as your competitors, the customer’s perception is the new reality.  Here is some good information that you can use to help

  • The Package – The package is anything you and your company do that gives the product additional or differential value.  Items like delivery time, credit terms, refund policy, and other additions are important.
  • The Professional Edge – You, in partnership with your organization can be the edge.  What makes you the best sales professional out there?  Can you define it? Responsiveness, innovative, intuitive, or are you an expert, product or industry as described in Black Sales Journal’s Your Customer Needs an Expert – December 2010
  • The Pricing – If this variable is equal or close to the other products, it does not detract from the rest of the items.
  • The Perceived Value – The sum of the above three items in the eyes of the customer.  This is how the customer believes that they can benefit from the coupling of your product, packaging, pricing, and the professional that is standing behind those three items.

So the simple equation looks like this:


The Package

This one is simpler than you think.  Keep in mind that since it is under your nose, you might not have studied it much.  Now is the time to take account.

A carpet store knows that most of the carpeting that they are selling comes from the same mills as their competitors are using.  Price is a differentiator, but when it comes to this product, the slight differences in price for buying in volume do not transfer well to the customer.

The answer is the packaging that includes:

  • Same day or next day delivery
  • Sunday Installation
  • Employing your installers (more accountable, more responsible)
  • More favorable credit terms
  • Disposal of your current carpet and pad

None of these things are beyond duplication, yet when some are offered they can make the difference in the sales by appearing more amenable or customer centric.  Think about the advantages that your organization has over your competitors, and focus your sales pitch on them.

The Professional – YOU!

This is the most visible difference out there, if you believe in yourself and give it your all.  Being responsive, giving excellent follow-up before the sale, and being an expert (industry or product) can be solid differentiators.   Know how to use them to your advantage.

It is not enough that you can brag about your experience; can you give references as to you and your company’s work?  Can you drop names of those that have benefited from your ingenuity and judgment?  When you get those compliments, you must file them and be ready to call upon them.

By being the ultimate professional, the Black sales professional can make all of the difference in the world.  Knowing how to smoothly go from appointment to commitment to the close is invaluable.

The Pricing

In a true commodity situation, your price is most likely going to be very nearly the same as your competitors.  Pricing factors should affect all products equally.

When pricing is not equal, it is usually based on a variety of factors. There is no doubt that distribution as well as the actual sales professional has an effect on price, but even more on value and service.

Perceived Value – The Customer’s View

The customer is looking for some difference, and in the absence of something relevant will consider it a commodity product.  This is not good because then there is an inertia that will keep them with their current vendor.

The sales professional has a responsibility to catalog the differences, and find the ones that apply to the buyer.  The buyer’s perception of those differences is the key.  Know your buyers and know your packaging.

In this example you are selling galvanized screws in 20 pound boxes.  Your product is so much of a commodity that your box even looks like your competitor’s products.  You, as a sales executive, cannot change anything on the product, or the box they come in, yet you can intervene to get them better the credit terms, insure delivery by tomorrow, or something else of value based on your knowledge of the customer’s situation.  The concession regarding credit or delivery is a packaging issue, yet the listening to understand that extensions of more credit or rapid delivery were ultra-important comes from being an engaged professional.  The net result is that the customer’s perception will be that your package, you and your company, have more value.

Try the exercise of taking inventory of you and your company’s advantages down to the smallest of differences.  Be exhaustive in your review.  You will note that even when the product is a commodity, there is still something to sell.  Last but not least, remember the real difference maker, you the sales professional!

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The Ultimate Sales Professional! Is it You?

I guess you could say that I have “Drank the Kool-Aid”  On this one!  There are just certain skills, attributes, and attitudes that you can have or develop that will put you in the leagues with the best.  Read today and Tuesday, 3/28, to get the rest of the scoop.  There is much to think about here.


Since late November of 2010, we have described many of the traits that a true successful professional would have.  We have outlined the activities and processes that would, over time, make a verifiable difference in this individual’s ability to reach goals, and provide customer satisfaction.

We have discussed personality attributes and skills that make a difference over the last several posts.  Once again it is time to talk about how a sales professional puts these all together and finds success.

Over the next three posts we will revisit these important posts and put these together in an effort to portray that individual who is sought by sales managers and customers alike.

This professional has learned the benefits of mastering relationships, both internal and external, to get the maximum leverage from each personal encounter.  This professional knows the different methods of getting exposure, and how to capitalize on it.  This individual is always prepared.

There will be some references to previous issues of Black Sales Journal, as I want to keep this as concise as possible, yet capitalize on the wealth of information that has been published to date.

Deep Enduring Relationships

There is no area more important in the long run than knowing how to ‘master the relationship’.  It does not matter what your level of intelligence is if you cannot decipher how to ‘work’ your personal relationships to your advantage, and your customers benefit, you will not have maximum effectiveness.

There is an ‘art to the relationship’ that is undeniable.  It cannot be substituted by process, intelligence, or hard work.  You see, the ‘art of the relationship’ is not an inherited trait.  It is something that you hone with every interface.  It can be aided by having a gregarious and engaging personality.

The successful Black sales professional has the ability to form deep and enduring customer relationships (Black Sales Journal 1/13, Deep and Enduring Customer Relationships and Black Sales Journal 1/20, Deep and Enduring Customer Relationships II).  This individual works with the assurance that existing relationships are strong enough to receive ‘preference’ as compared to ‘wanna-be’ sales professionals look to unseat him or her.  In other words, the customer prefers to do business with someone like this professional, and that preference ‘spoils’ the customer.  This is a powerful preference that is enduring, and anchors the relationship.  We all want to work with someone that provides value, and is concerned about our business, and produces results for us.

This ‘preference’ exists not only because of the solid personal and business connection that exists, but also because the professional is effective in providing the customer something of value.  Always strive to always be effective and always show value.

Undying Professionalism

Being effective is a good start, yet by itself it is not enough.  The consummate professional is more than just effective; he or she does those things that exude success.  We talked about this in Black Sales Journal 3/7, Be the Consummate Professional. This individual is:

  • Punctual
  • Empathetic
  • Attentive
  • Knowledgeable
  • Organized
  • Responsive
  • Visionary

Most of these are self explanatory, yet I want to spend a minute on a couple of them:

Responsiveness is ever important.  As stated in Black Sales Journal, Responsiveness – the Objective of the Sales Professional 6/16/2011, responsiveness is in the eyes of the customer.  It is defined by the customers expectations, and includes such important items as:

  • Answers the phone and returns calls promptly
  • Keeps commitments
  • Provides answers to inquiries and questions as soon as possible
  • Stays in touch – communicates
  • Provides requested information promptly

Knowledge will always set you apart.  This knowledge could get you labeled an expert.  This ‘designation’ comes from those people and businesses that have benefited from your knowledge, and make the claim in your behalf.  See a most interesting set of articles in Black Sales Journal 12/20, Your Customer Needs an Expert and Black Sales Journal 6/27, More on Being an Expert – An Edge for the Black Sales Professional.  Expert power is attractive to a customer.

Empathy provides a connection and a serum that convinces the customer you are real.  If you have no empathy for the customer, then why are you calling on them?  How are you going to solve their problem if you don’t have that connection?  Put yourself in you customer’s shoes.  Live their problems and your solutions will come about easier.  Always keep in mind that a customer can tell when you have no empathy as easily as you can tell when a love interest of yours is not interested.

Now for the point that pulls this together:  If you condition yourself to be accomplished at all of these different items, you will havecredibility. Enormous credibility is the product of having deep enduring relationships and being a consummate sales professional.

More to Come….

Armed with what is above you would think that success would be much more probable.  You probably are correct, although what are missing are the activities, habits, and processes that make the person formidable even if some of the personality issues are missing.

We will cover them in the next two information-filled posts.  These are powerful for the Black sales professional.  These items are hard to put together, and even more difficult to master, yet when you do, you have an enormous amount of power and potential.

Next up:  Black Sales Journal 3/28– The Ultimate Sales Professional Pt. II –Sales Professional in Action

We hope you will read it.  If you have comment, write me at