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A One Word Strategy for Creating a Competitive Edge in Sales

Customer conversations

competitive selling edge

March 16, 2022Blog

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Establish Your Competitive Advantage in Selling

Over the decades, industries have moved through the consolidation life cycle at an increasing pace. Consider, for example, that global M&A volume in 2015 exceeded $5 trillion, breaking the previous record by 9%. The Herfindahl Index, a popular measure of market consolidation, has increased over 75% of US industries.

The drive to consolidate comes largely from the advantages of scale — namely, lower costs. Additionally, firms build efficiencies while unlocking greater market share. If a business cannot achieve growth, they will buy it. However, if so many advantages come with consolidation, why does 60% of M&A activity fail to generate the expected revenue?

The answer is conscientiousness.

Developing a Conscientious Approach

The drive for scale often emphasizes volume, not value. Moreover, this push for growth and margin obscures the benefits of thorough, careful execution, which keeps the customer at the center of all decisions. Leaders who are conscientious and foster this trait among their team succeed. “Highly conscientious employees do a series of things better than the rest of us,” as University of Illinois psychologist, Brent Roberts, explains.

In fact, an 80-year study tracking the entire lives of its participants found that the most conscientious people had “the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person, like a scientist or a professor — somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree.”

Businesses should take note; when you slow down and take the care to do something right, it pays off.

Research supports this notion. Organizational studies starting in the 1990s found that “people displaying these traits tend to succeed in management roles.” Interestingly, the efficiencies so many believe come from upscaling a business are often already present ineffective leaders. They consider outcomes before moving forward. If an unexpected challenge arises, they persist.

Thoughtfully Leading Sales Conversations

Conscientiousness becomes a competitive advantage when it’s applied to interactions with the customer. In these instances, the sales professional takes the time to understand customer needs. They do this by asking questions and truly listening to their answers. As a result, the relationship becomes less transactional and more collaborative. Taking this approach creates a competitive advantage because so many other businesses have built their model around volume rather than value. However, leveraging this advantage must begin at the leadership level.

Effective leaders understand that they must be conscientious within their organization if they’re going to exercise conscientiousness with customers. Moreover, studies have shown that this trait signifies a leader’s potential to influence employees. This finding underscores the power of conscientiousness; it bolsters leadership effectiveness and win rates for sales professionals. It is a repeatable process that applies to the positioning of all product solutions across industries.

Conscientious sales professionals uncover the customer’s conception of the problem. Buyers today are bombarded with opinions and options. There can be a multitude of ways to solve an issue, and navigating the best path is challenging. As a result, customers may misunderstand the nature of their needs. They misdiagnose the problem

The strongest sellers take the time to determine if the customer has fallen into this trap. The intention is not to agree on all points; it is to understand all points. This is important because customers today formulate buying decisions before the first conversation with a sales professional. They have access to unprecedented amounts of information, complicating the process for themselves. For this reason, more than half of sales opportunities end in no-decision.

Sales professionals can overcome this inertia by eliciting feedback. Without this kind of exchange, it’s difficult to gauge how well the solution will fit the need. Purchasing decisions are inherently emotional. The customer has professional and financial stakes in play. A thorough sales professional understands these stakes and how they connect to the customer’s world. Therefore, they foster openness to keep the customer talking.

Taking the Time to Get It Right

This consistent dialogue encourages the customer to reveal the details that help a conscientious sales professional prevent missteps. It’s important to remember, however, that the customer is often rushed. Therefore, come prepared with the most incisive questions if the dialogue is cut short. Sometimes this means asking tough questions that run counter to the customer’s understanding of the problem. Here, it’s necessary to pursue the customer’s thinking, rather than move away from it. Successful sales professionals aren’t afraid to ask tough questions because they know that the facts and truth for the customer will produce the most compelling value proposition.

When a sales professional takes the time to get it right, they demonstrate to the customer that they’re a reliable ongoing resource. Business challenges are more complex today. Engaging dimensional problems requires careful thinking and an approach that considers all outcomes, present, and future. For this reason, a conscientious sales professional is best suited for the job.

Going Deeper to Fully Engage Clients

Conscientiousness is a strategy for creating a competitive edge because it offers a level of thoroughness and accuracy that’s less seen as businesses build towards volume. Sales leaders can enhance the competitiveness of their team by instilling a drive to go deeper in the exploration of the customer’s challenges. This approach rarely takes longer than fast, surface-level conversations, which only slow the process later in the cycle with mismatched solutions.

Designing the sales process around a careful and consistent approach to the customer optimizes all critical selling metrics. For example, a complete understanding of needs can increase contract value. Time to productivity decreases as new sales professionals can absorb a simple but effective strategy fast. Conscientiousness closes.

Contact us to learn more about the one-word strategy for creating a competitive edge.

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