5 Ways To Achieve a Competitive Advantage In The Furniture Business
Furniture World Magazine
In today’s marketplace, developing and maintaining an objective advantage over the competition can seem next to impossible. Why? Because from a customer’s perspective, similar product and service offerings are basically the same. If they view furniture products A, product B, and product C as all having the same value, then the only thing they look at to differentiate the three is the price.
Unless you have a distinct advantage customer’s care about you must create a competitive advantage by creating a value perception that goes beyond your product or service – a value added proposition. Demonstrating your value added competitive advantage during the sales process is difficult, because traditionally the emphasis of competitive advantage has been service and the only way for a prospect to experience your service is to actually become a customer. And to get a prospect to become a customer, you have to be able to positively differentiate your company’s service from the competition during the sales process. Therefore, to maximize your sales, your revenue, and your profit potential, you need to create a value-added proposition and perception. In other words, your entire offering, including the way you sell, has to be set up in a way that the customer sees you as being positively different from the competition.
To position your products/services as positively different, you need to leverage your sales approach to maximize your point of contact opportunities with prospects and customers. Point of contact opportunities are any time a representative of your organization comes in contact with a prospect or customer. The way that representative interacts with the prospect or customer is going to form his or her strongest opinion of the organization. Essentially, it all comes down to what your representatives do and how they do it. Focusing on the products your organization has to offer or the “needs” of the customer is not enough, your staff needs to focus on the critical issues facing your customers and the value your organization can provide in solving those issues. You need your customers to know that you offer more than any other organization, and therefore your products and services are worth the higher price. To help your organization make the most of every point of contact, consider the following.
1. Make the Customer Feel You Understand Their Critical Issues: At every point of contact, you must make the prospect or customer feel listened to and understood. But because all organizations strive for that, the usual techniques have lost their impact. For example, almost every organization uses active listening techniques, such as summarizing the customer’s question or concern. As a result, when you talk to a customer service or sales representative, you can usually hear them using the techniques on you. But when everyone is doing it, the competitive advantage disappears.
Your staff needs to go beyond the usual active listening techniques to effectively rise above the competition. Rather than parroting back answers, you can uncover your customer’s critical issues, help them think about these issues differently, and perceive you as having a solution. When your customers and prospects feel like you truly understand their issues and challenges, they will see more value in your organization’s services.
2. Demonstrate the Added Value: Every time customers or prospects come into contact with one of your representatives, you want them to believe they received some value from the experience. So help your prospects and customers gain some new insight or identify an underlying problem. Do whatever you can to establish yourself as a thought leader by demonstrating a deeper understanding of your prospects and customers critical issues and bringing new ideas and information that specifically pertain to those issues.
For example, every time you meet with a customer or prospect enhance your sales approach to uncover and provide a solution for an issue they are struggling with or bring some bit of information that the other party will see as helpful. Strive to go beyond the normal day to day and demonstrate your value added by helping the prospect or customer gain new insights into the issues that challenge them.
3. Be Consistent in Your Customer Contact: When you don’t establish consistent positive contact with your customers and prospects, you lose opportunities to create and maintain your competitive advantage. For example, many sales professionals say and do everything right to sign a new customer, such as following-up regularly, explaining the details, and answering all the questions. But once the prospect opens an account, the sales representative doesn’t maintain contact and virtually drops off the planet. This inconsistency is a common occurrence, both on the prospecting and customer service sides of sales. If you maintain consistent, value-added contact, that in itself creates a competitive advantage, because you’re doing something that no one else does.
In the prospecting phase, the value-added might come from a different spin on your approach. For example, instead of calling a prospect and saying, “I’d like to talk with you about the services our organization can offer,” you can say, “I’d like to talk to you about the solutions we provide to the issues businesses like yours face.” Then be as specific as possible with the issues they are likely facing and maintain regular contact to continually demonstrate your position as a value added provider. In the customer service phase, a way to add value is to meet with customers on a regular basis to check in and explore new challenges you may be able to help with or send customers an article you saw on trends in their industry, or by recommending a book they may find useful. By using a consistent value-added approach, you establish yourself as being positively different.
4. Identify their Unseen Problems: Beyond dealing with the obvious needs, if you can help customers or prospects identify potential and existing problems they didn’t even realize they had, then you can put yourself light-years ahead of the competition. Most organizations approach their prospects and customers with a fly-by assessment of their current needs, and they miss the underlying problems that the prospect doesn’t know how to solve. Realize that only about one in ten prospects at any given time has an active need for your services. The key to maximizing your results is to leverage the other 90%!
The key to identifying your customers’ and prospects’ unforeseen issues is to do more development work. Take your point of contact opportunities to the next level and look for symptoms your prospects and customers experience, but can’t find the cause. If you can engage your prospects and customers at that level, you jump ahead of the competition. The key is to ask the right questions to gain deeper insights into the hidden issues and get the customer to realize how those issues impact on their business and life.
5. Provide All Your Resources to the Customer: Once you’ve done all the development work and you’ve brought someone in as a customer, you must continue to offer them added value. Many times organizations focus solely on the prospecting phase, and lose opportunities to grow their current customers as a result. But after the initial sale is made, the more you can present the full resources of your organization to the customer as a solution to their critical issues, the more valuable you are to the customer. Introduce them to your full line of solutions and make additional information readily available to the customer. Don’t focus on your products and services, rather focus on how they solve your customers critical issues. Do this and they will continue to see the added value in your financial institution.
Added Value in the Future: To maintain a pricing advantage and to avoid lowering your price, you must create a value-added perception by leveraging your points of contact. Remember, you have to do what your competition isn’t. People will only see you as valuably different, and be willing to pay more for you, if they believe they get something of value that they can’t get anywhere else.
Make your customers and prospects feel understood by going beyond active listening techniques and asking questions that help them see their critical issues differently. Demonstrate your competitive advantage by communicating the value added to your services by connecting them as solutions to the customer’s issues. Establish consistent contact with your prospects, and then maintain this contact when they become customers. Go beyond your prospects’ and customers’ obvious needs and develop solutions to the problems that they haven’t identified yet. Then once you’ve brought in a new customer, present the full resources of your organization so they continue to see the value you can offer them. These steps are important in selling to prospects, and even more important when you’re expanding an existing customer relationship.
When you use these techniques to demonstrate your value added, you won’t have to play the price game to maintain your competitive advantage. Customers and prospects will be willing to pay more for your products and services because they’ll know you’re more valuable than everyone else in the market.
About the Author: Bill Gager is a consultant, speaker and coach who has worked with some of the nations top Organizations to leverage the power of their potential to maximize their results from every customer point of contact opportunity and customer relationship. For more information please call 1.877.800.7284 or visit www.gagerinternational.com.