Is your company selling a commodity or a solution?


A local company wanted to grow their sales. However, they sold a product that could be purchased at Staples, Office Max, Meijer, Walmart and even on the web. Competition was on every corner.

Many new customers they talked with only focused on buying the lowest priced product. The dilemma was how to create a strategy that allowed them to grow their sales in a profitable manner while selling in what was perceived as a commodity marketplace.

How many times has your sales force told you that “our price is too high and/or our product is like everyone else’s?”

What was it, if anything, that could differentiate this company’s offering in this marketplace? As the marketplace was studied and compared to what the local company had to offer, several unique items that differentiated their offering were identified.

They were not just selling a product but rather a solution. For example, most of the competition that sold similar products did not provide repair service.

Then they started their sales strategy reviews to focus on solution selling, not commodity selling.

The client’s new account representatives were asked to focus on their prospect’s current situation. In other words, the sales people responsible for gaining new customers needed to find out who the prospect was doing business with today.

They needed to determine what the competitor was providing — both the product as well as the service provider for these machines. They need to understand what the prospect liked about their current provider. They also wanted to understand what the prospect would like to see their current provider do, that they currently are not doing? What is it that their current provider could do to make the customer even happier? Is there anything the prospect dislikes in regards to the current provider?

By understanding the prospect’s current situation, the strategy was to create a personalized approach to win that specific customer’s business. The local company started selling a solution, not just a product.

The local company held strategy sessions with their new account representatives to insure they were approaching their prospects with the solution sales mentality. The new account representatives were reminded to ask, “What do we need to do to earn your business?”

By being solution and customer focused the local company built a solution targeted on what that specific prospect thought was a priority. Their new account reps did not assume what was important but rather asked, probed and quantified the priorities of the prospect.

In this industry, as with any industry today, price is important. However, if the only thing you have to offer is price, then the next business who comes in the door with a lower price will take the business.

However, if you have created a solution along with a competitive price, you have higher odds of maintaining that customer long term. If you lead with price without understanding the priorities of your prospect, then you have nothing but price to discuss.

This analysis creates an approach that builds loyalty, protects margins and — most importantly — provide significant value to customers.

Roger Bostdorff is the President of B2B Sales Boost. He spent over 30 years with IBM in sales, sales management, and general management. B2B Sales Boost is a consulting company helping organizations improve both their topline revenue and bottom line profits. This may include the following areas: sales improvement, personnel, conflict resolution, profit enhancement, succession planning, strategic planning and overall business processes. Find more about B2B Sales Boost on the web at or calling 419-351-4347. To receive the B2B Sales Boost Newsletter send an email to [email protected].

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