First Business

September 03, 2010

Identity Crisis: To Differentiate Yourself, Avoid These Phrases

One sure way to get a unanimous non-show of hands from a group of salespeople is to ask this question: "Let’s see a show of hands. How many of you, when you set your objectives for a customer meeting, have at the top of the list: ’I want to come across to the customer like every other salesperson that customer met with in the last week?’

Truly, the very last thing every salesperson wants is to be like other salespeople. Can you name another profession where there is such a strong distaste for being like all of the others in the profession? I can’t! Doctors? Engineers? Accountants?

I asked this very question at a talk I gave a few months ago and received the predictable hands-folded-on-the-lap response. After the talk one of the attendees was trying to get my attention. He’d wanted to express his wild agreement with my message (he appeared to be fishing for affirmation).

"In fact,†he pointed out to me, "I always say to customers that ’I don’t want to sell you anything’ so that I DON’T come across like other salespeople.â€

The irony was too much for me, and I shared that with him. The very words he uses to separate himself from other salespeople unwittingly and unfortunately do just the opposite. They define him as the salesperson archetype!

Here is the question for all salespeople to ask themselves: "Is it possible to be viewed differently by customers if we sound like every other salesperson?†Whenever I pose the question to salespeople I get a unanimous "no,†and that’s good.

If you take differentiating yourself seriously, here are 10 phrases that, whether we like it or not, have the unintended consequence of defining us as stereotypical salespeople. Please note, for many of these, there isn’t a simple substitute phrase that doesn’t define us as salespeople. My recommendation to salespeople is to start by just avoiding these. You will develop alternates on your own that work.

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