Position Yourself For Success

The Positioning Play is the second play of the Case Open Routine.  The purpose of the positioning play is to stake a claim, establish the role of the sales person, and help the sales person to occupy a desired location.

There are two main principles associated with staking a claim.  First, if you don’t claim a position, you will never own it.  Second, if your claim goes uncontested, you win.  In the marketplace of products and ideas sales people drive the stakes that claim territories and mark positions.  If a sales person does not verbalize his product claim, potential customers or competitors do not acknowledge it, no customer list is developed, no territories are established, and no revenue stream is created.  If a sales person does not claim a position he will never own it.

This principle can be illustrated by using an example of market position.  Think about dandruff shampoo.  What is the first brand that comes to mind?  Usually the leading answer in this exercise is Head and Shoulders.

No one simply granted this market position to Head and Shoulders.  Rather, Procter and Gamble, the makers of Head and Shoulders, staked their claim as the dandruff shampoo by investing millions of advertising dollars to claim the efficacy of their product in the fight against embarrassing skin flakes.  As a result of the investment, Procter and Gamble no longer has to dominate the air waves with their message, they only invest enough to maintain the position they claimed.

The second principle is related to the first; if your claim goes uncontested, you win.  In the case of explorers, settlers and miners, once the stake had been driven and the claim had been made, contests for the claim had to be answered.  If an explorer claimed a territory in the name of his sovereign only to find that a previous claim existed, a contest for ownership ensued.  When settlers and miners faced the problem of a contested claim, each side argued their case in civil court, where an impartial judge resolved the dispute.  But if the claims went uncontested, the rights of ownership were acknowledged and granted.

Similar rules govern claims and rights in sales.  When Procter and Gamble planted their stake in the ground with a dandruff shampoo, competing products were not able to effectively combat the claim.  As a result, Procter and Gamble secured the leading market position in dandruff shampoos with Head and Shoulders.

How to Establish Your Role

Last week’s tip of the week talked about positioning yourself for success and staking your claim.  In addition to staking your claim, you use the positioning play to establish your role.  The purpose of the first is to find balance between generality and specificity; the purpose of the second is to claim the high ground.

So let’s talk about choosing the right balance between generality and specificity.  Your claim should be general enough to cover the position you want, but not be so broad as to be confusing.  Understanding the scope and scale of your position can eliminate confusion.  Scope is the range of understanding or the extent of action that is possible, and scale is a measure of size, proportion and dimension.

For an example of scope let’s use a life insurance sales person.  If you were a life insurance sales person, claiming a position as a business consultant would misdirect conversations, waste your time and erode the power of your primary purpose which is to sell life insurance policies.  On the other hand, positioning yourself as a financial consultant leads to conversations that help you discover opportunity and meet the needs of your suspect.  In this example, positioning as a life insurance agent may be too narrow, positioning as a business consultant too broad, but positioning as a financial consultant or a financial planner solves the question of scope with the right balance between generality and specificity.

Scale too must balance generality and specificity.  In the example of our life insurance sales person, deal size defines the target audience.  The target audience may be young married couples that the life insurance agent can grow with over time, or the target audience might be established wage earners.  Defining the scale helps to define the target audience and the conversations you will have with suspects in the target audience.

Another principle of establishing your role is to claim the high ground.  Claiming the high ground means that the language of positioning uses qualitative terms to show how your product or service is superior to that of your competitor.  Examples of language that establish the high ground include; my company specializes in or, our company is the global leader when it comes to or, we deliver the best quality in the industry.  Claiming the high ground positions you as a cut above the competition and establishes your Strategic Excellence Position.

The Natural Born Sales Person

I have often heard sales leaders and chief executives express the desperate hope that they could simply hire a natural born sales person or someone with the “sales gene.”  When these executives are pressed to identify the characteristics of the natural born sales person, they mention traits such as gift of gab, charisma, and physical attractiveness.

Debunking the natural born artist theory does not mean that the classical sales attributes lack value in salespeople.  It does point out that managers and leaders cannot rely on the “sales gene.”   Gifted and talented sales people still need training, coaching and accountability for performance measures.  Knowledge alone will not make you a natural born sales person any more than knowledge of the game of chess will make you a world master.  To become a natural born sales person, you will need ongoing study, practice, and feedback from a coach who is experienced and skilled.

An additional lesson is that sales people from all backgrounds and experiences with a wide variety of skills can be successful if they possess the will to learn and use a system based on true principals, proven models, and natural laws.

Schedule the Next Event

In sales, holding a meeting is activity but only the outcome of the meeting determines if it was a worthy performance.  Griffin Hill’s Sales Technology is more concerned about worthy performance than activity, and moving the sale along or causing it to progress to the next stage of the sales process is worthy performance.  Scheduling the next event in the sales process indicates completion of one important event and agreement to move to the next.  In this way the prospect advances to the next stage of the sales process.  This advancement signals a worthy performance on the part of the sales person.





Many sales people in our system attribute their increased productivity to scheduling the next event.  For example, a life insurance agent who was recently introduced to our Sales Technology complained to one of my colleagues that scheduling the next event increased his pace and productivity by four or five times and he was on a dead sprint.  The result was that he increased his closing ratio, got more closes in the same amount of time and was on track for a record year.

Make Your Proofs Specific

Last week we talked about validating benefits with a proof.  To be effective, proofs must be specific.  When you offer a specific proof it is more believable.  Specificity also makes your proof verifiable.  There are several ways to make your proofs more specific and more believable.  For example, using names of individuals or organizations makes proofs more specific.  There are some situations where using a customer name is not appropriate.  In those cases, there are other ways to make proofs more specific such as using industries and geographies.  Testimonials and customer quotes may also be used as proofs and will help you be more specific.

The use of numbers and statistics can also improve the quality of proofs.  For example, increasing sales revenue by 79% is better than just increasing sales revenue.  Increasing computing power is one thing but running a data set 100 times faster is much more impressive.  Saving a client from a substantial OSHA fine is nice but saving a client from $38,000 fine is better.  Using numbers and statistics will make your proofs more real and believable.  Numbers improve the quality of proofs and contribute to your credibility.

The purpose of using proofs is to validate claims, strengthen your credibility, and build the suspect’s confidence in you.  Using proofs accomplishes these purposes by following these basic principles and rules: proofs must be true and verifiable, proofs must relate to the benefit claimed, specific proofs increase believability, and using numbers and statistics makes your proofs more credible.


The 5 Ps of Benefits

After two decades of research, I have discovered that five categories offer the most efficient description of genuine benefits.  These categories are represented by five words, each beginning with the letter P.  The five categories are:

pain reliefpreservationpleasureprofit and prestige.

The 5 Ps can be matched with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs.  Maslow argued for several levels of human needs, the most basic of which is the need to satisfy hunger and thirst (pain relief).  Succeeding levels of need include the need for safety (preservation), love and belonging (pleasure), esteem (prestige) and growth toward self-actualization through education, justice, beauty and order – needs which commonly require financial resources (profit).  These 5 Ps are the most efficient way of categorizing the real benefits you can offer a customer.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs provides some guidance to the meaning of each of the 5 Ps.  When a suspect is experiencing pain, frustration, difficulty or hassle that can be solved by your product or service, you offer a pain relief benefit.  If the suspect is under threat from a competitor who is encroaching on market share or an environmental condition that could destroy them, they are in need of the preservation benefit that would protect them from the danger or demise. Expanding or introducing positive conditions provides a pleasure benefit.  Increasing the esteem of your suspect in the eyes of his peers, subordinates or supervisors is a prestige benefit, and increasing revenues or cutting expenses is a profit benefit.

Finally, benefits are powerful enough to stand alone, while features must be accompanied by benefits.  When the occasion permits, the use of features can strengthen the benefit claim but features are not required when posting benefits.  On the other hand, if you choose to use a feature in your conversations with a suspect you must also use a benefit.  Remember, when you talk about features you talk about you and suspects are only interested in themselves.

Buyers Buy Benefits

When we talk about the benefits of our products or services we tend to talk about their qualities, features, and functionality.  We say things like fast, friendly service, or quality, innovation, speed, and durability.

As long as we talk about our products and services in this context we are talking about US.  We think we have shifted our attention to focus on the suspect, but in reality we are still focusing on US or OUR perceptions of how good WE are.  WE are faster.  WE are friendly.

In order for sales people to connect with suspects, we must get outside of our egocentric view and get into the mind of our suspects.  It is not easy to get outside of our own egocentric box.  If I say my product is faster, I am speaking about me and my product.  But if I ask myself why my customers care about speed, I can begin the transition from feature to benefit.

If my product is faster than what my customer is currently using, then purchasing my product provides an advantage over not purchasing it.  When I say the speed of my product helps my customers complete more work in the same amount of time, that is an advantage to my customer, and it suggests there is an advantage available to my suspect.

I can take the advantage one step further by talking about the value of completing more work in the same amount of time, which might include increased revenue, relieving the pain of a tedious task, or freeing time for more enjoyable activities.  When I take the advantage one step further, I am able to get to the real benefits desired by my suspect.

Practice Your Elevator Speech

Before reading this week’s Tip of the Week, participate in this discovery exercise:  Imagine a chance meeting with your ideal suspect.  This is a person you really want a chance to sell to, but you simply have not been able to get their attention.  Your chance meeting will not allow much time and you must make the most of it.  Please take a minute, pull out some paper, and write down what you will say.

* * * * *

In selling circles, the scenario that I just described is often called the elevator speech.  The idea of the elevator speech is to make an impact with a suspect even if you are only in the elevator together for a short ride.  Now that you have written your elevator speech, answer the following questions.

1.  What was your objective?  What did you want to accomplish?

2.  How many words did it take?

3.  If you were the suspect, how would you respond to the introduction you just wrote?

4.  How confident are you that you would accomplish your objective?

5.  How frequently have you used this same approach?

For many people, including experienced sales professionals, writing an elevator speech is a challenging assignment.  Some argue that it is much easier to actually engage the conversation than to write it.  It may be easier but it is far less effective.  When you write your elevator speech you have the opportunity to clarify your objectives and choose your language in advance.  Research shows this is far more productive than acting in the instant.  Additionally, preparation does not diminish your ability to be spontaneous – it enhances it.  When the time for action comes, the time for preparation has passed and if you are not prepared, you are not likely to be as brilliant as you would like to be.

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Measure Your Performance and Improve

Sales people are not alone in their aversion to reporting and evaluation.  It is our human nature to resist evaluation.  Scheduling the annual performance review harrows up memories of being summoned to the principal’s office for a severe scolding.

Avoiding the pain of personal performance measurement slows skill development and growth.  The most powerful ally we have in our quest for achievement is rapid and frequent feedback.  The advantage of immediate evaluation is that the results can be used to diagnose and fix problems quickly, before they become habitual.

In his retirement speech from the National Football League, quarterback Steve Young alluded to the advantages of rapid and frequent feedback.  Mr. Young confessed that he never had an annual performance review in his life.  Then he added that his performance reviews had come every 6 seconds.  Responding to that rapid and frequent feedback helped Mr. Young become one of the most celebrated and successful professional quarterbacks ever to play the game.

It has been said, “When performance is measured, performance improves.  When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.”  As a performance scientist, I have come to respect the profound truth of this simple statement.  I have learned that if we can measure the performance, we can improve it.

Principles, Rules and Natural Laws Govern Performance Success

Rules and laws govern systems of success, and sales people who want to achieve greater results must follow the natural laws governing human performance.  Just as Newton’s laws of motion govern the momentum of objects, the laws of human performance govern the momentum – and the success – of sales people.  Just as objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to remain in motion, human performance is governed by habits and patterns that preserve status quo.

Our current level of success is the result of a system perfectly designed to achieve that very outcome, whether or not we are conscious of the system we are using.  For a sales person to break inertia, new positive forces must be introduced and sustained.  Simple training interventions are not adequate to break inertia or to produce lasting change.  For these reasons, a complete system is required to bring about sustainable changes in human performance.

Now consider the results of your current system and record

1. Three things you like about your current performance results.

2. Three things you would like to change about your current performance results.