By Don Hutson
These days, one dreaded statement from a potential customer can make a salon attendant turn pale. It comes in different forms:
"Is this your best deal?"
"The salon down the street has packages for much less.”
"Thanks, but we want to shop around before we make a decision."
How many salon owners have recently thought, "Business used to be so good, but sales are down, and I need help!"? In today's market of intense competition and constant margin pressure, this scenario continues to replay itself.
When not prepared for the price resistance seen in tough market conditions, a weak salesperson may stammer through a poorly thought-out response. Thinking beyond price can help strengthen your salon’s positioning.
What is value anyway?
The truth is that value, similar to beauty, is quite subjective. It is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder. It is incumbent upon every sales professional to find out exactly what the client values. Be sure to lead with your ears and ask the questions that reveal what your prospect actually values. The prospect's definition of value is more important than yours.
In tough markets, we need to learn to sell value by differentiating all of our deliverables. The degree to which we are perceived as different from and better than the competition is critical.
To customers, salespeople often appear to offer just about the same products and services. Your prospective customers may be busy commoditizing your solution, in which case you must be busy differentiating it. The bottom line is this: Unless you can create a powerful and distinct difference to the customer, you are not going to stand out from the crowd.
So the question is: "How do I separate myself and our offerings from the competition?" The answer: You've just got to be different – really different. And it's not always about price!
Seven Ways to Differentiate Yourself from the Competition
1. Product Differentiation
How are your products and services different from or better than your competitors'? If you can't come up with some solidly unique components, you may be in danger of being perceived as just another commodity. Here's a strategy: Perhaps you and others within your business can make “differentiation” a major initiative. The collective intellect of this group might well be able to identify or create something unique about your products or services; then creatively exploit every aspect of the differences.
2. Price Differentiation
Unsophisticated marketing and sales people often think the best way to get business is by under-pricing everybody else. Thin margins have put more companies out of business than any other single factor. If the boss chooses to go to market as the low-price provider, your company better have every expense category cut to the bone, including sales commissions, or it will perish in short order! This might be your worst approach in trying to build a viable long-term enterprise.
3. Relationship Differentiation
Harness the power of relationships and lock out the competition, regardless of the marketplace. If there is a solid relationship between you and your clients based on high trust, you have an inside track of tremendous value. This environment will make you the envy of your competitors, and your client may not even give your competitor a chance if the relationship is strong enough.
Build trust with a solid, high-integrity win-win approach by exceeding their expectations and being a valued resource in every conceivable way. Be prepared to earn their trust, which takes time, planning and perseverance. Be impeccable with your word from the get-go and implement a communication process that continues to keep you and your clients connected.
4. Process Differentiation
Many companies don't attach enough significance to the processes that dictate the image of their business model. The "We've never done it that way" syndrome bites companies in the backside when they don't give innovative thought to their business practices. Get your best minds together and brainstorm better, more customer-friendly, out-of- the-box ways to do business. Remember that business changes every day due to globalization, e-commerce, the Internet, ever-changing buyer behavior, and new software and technology platforms. Capitalize on innovation rather than being a victim of it!