How You Sell Is More Important Than What You Sell

Here’s Why.

We’ve entered an era where how you sell has become as important as what you sell.

Here’s why…

Every product category is exploding in competition.

Customers have hundreds of choices for any product type they want to buy. And all of them are more or less the same.

Differentiation based on product features is short-lived at best, and non-existent at worst.

Take marketing technology as one example of this…

In 2011, the marketing technology landscape had a total of 150 vendors in the space:

You’d think that 150 is already a lot to handle.

But it’s a drop in the bucket compared to today.

Before you scroll down, can you guess how many marketing technology vendors there are today?

Take a wild guess.

I’ll wait.

Drum roll, please….

Answer:

5,000.

It’s a mess:

Do you really believe the vendor with a slightly better feature is winning that war?

I don’t buy it.

This is just one example.

The same explosion of competition is happening in every B2B category.

There are exact clones of “what” you sell out there.

The best products are unlikely to bubble their way to the top on their own merit.

This is “Killing Off” the Sales Leaders Who Fail to Adapt

This trend is racking up casualties among sales leaders.

Those who have failed to adapt to this change are in hot water.

Their lifespans shrink as they struggle to figure out how to win in this new hyper-competitive world:

Too many of them are still hanging their hats on what they sell.

But it’s not all bleak.

There are some sales leaders who have figured out how to thrive despite all of the noise…

,,,by differentiating based on how they sell, now what they sell.

How You Sell > What You Sell: A Case Study

Zuora does this really well.

They’ve risen above the noise by mastering how they sell, not solely what they sell.

Here’s an overview.

Zuora has 12 established competitors (not counting all of the small startups in the space).

All of the products are more or less the same: recurring billing software.

Yet somehow, Zuora has an estimated 7x the revenue as their closest competitor.

How could they get away with that?

They didn’t start any earlier than their competitors. You’ll find no “first mover advantage” here.

You may argue they have great marketing.

To some extent, that could be true.

But their competition is actually outperforming them in many aspects of marketing.

Take a look at their search engine rankings compared to their competitors to see what I mean:

It comes down to this: Zuora is known for having one of the most effective sales presentations in B2B sales today.

They begin their pitch by addressing a vital change in the world:

“People aren’t buying products anymore. They’re subscribing to them.”

Then, they walk prospects through all of the consequences of this new trend.

They outline in gory detail how some companies have paid the price by failing to adapt, and how others are winning by offering subscription products and services.

Only after they’ve told this story do they introduce their product.

In other words, they aren’t succeeding because of what they sell.

Their subscription billing platform isn’t much different than the rest of them.

They are killing it because of how they sell:

They sell the subscription economy as a concept, how it’s changing the world, and what that means for their customers.

And those customers buy in droves.

What Stops the Rest of Us?

The problem is how we sell is a “black box.”

Sales conversations are the pinnacle of “how” we sell.

When we talk about how you sell, we are referring to how you conduct sales conversations.

Yet we, as sales leaders, are blind to sales conversations.

This blindness is the root cause of the quota attainment gap that separates your star reps from everyone else:

How can you win based on how you sell if you’re blind to how you sell?

If we don’t get a hold on how our sales team is selling, we’ll end up as a needle in the haystack.

Sales Conversations as a Strategic Imperative

The key to winning based on how you sell is by treating sales conversations as a strategic imperative.

They contain the defining moments that get deals done.

A company’s success will rise and fall on the effectiveness of their sales conversations.

There are many “first steps” to start treating sales conversations as the strategic asset they are.

Here’s one of them…

Download our free ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Winning Sales Conversations.

Send a copy to everyone on your team.

It’ll send the right message.

That’s all for now folks.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, or tag a colleague who should check this out.

I hope you enjoyed this post.

More important, I hope you do something with it.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 285,454+ people.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.