Learn How to Improve Sales: Table Stakes and Differentiating Value

Table stakes are the very minimum that it takes to be seriously considered as a contender to your prospect. In this recording, Terry explains how to improve sales and use your differentiating value to stand out from the competition during the sales process.

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When people are asked about their differentiating value, they say things that are not at all differentiating. They’re just the table stakes. Tell us what this means, first of all. What are table stakes?

Table stakes refers to what it takes to even be seriously considered as a solution-provider. It’s the stuff everybody has to do to make the list. There is no differentiation in table stakes if you allow the prospect’s definition of table stakes to stand. Example: Yesterday I’m working with a sales force on a first engagement, and I ask the simple question, “What differentiates you?” The answer is, “We hire great people.” It’s also, “We got the quality of this process. In addition to that, we’re very responsive. We keep our employees a long time.” They name all these facts, which every other competitor’s going to say very similar things.

It’s the minimum that it takes to be seriously considered. When you ask the question, “What differentiates you,” you want to be listening for answers that point to consequences that the prospect would want to avoid. Just having great people, the prospect’s probably not going to process that very carefully and say, “What does that mean to me?” They’ll just check that off and say, “Well, the other five vendors have said that, too.” That doesn’t mean anything. The point is, table stakes are what everybody’s going to talk about. It’s a minimum requirement to even be considered as a potential solution-provider.

If my company legitimately does have better quality than our competitors, there’s a way to talk about that that gets it out of that table stakes realm, which you’ve already started talking about. But tell me a little bit more about language quality, for example, in a way that brings it out of table stakes.

When possible, you want to reference the answer to, “What does you quality mean to me?” Or, “How do you message your quality?” You want to be talking about it in a way that the consequences to the sweet spot of your market are unacceptable to not have you definition of quality. What is the definition of quality that you want the marketplace to use to tell what that means? If quality means we offer a difference in response time, which can then make solutions available more quickly, now it’s talking about your ability to compete more effectively because of our quality. When you translate from, “what is the thing” to “what are the consequences of not having the thing and how does it show up,” now quality begins to have a very personal meaning to the person you’re talking to and to your target market.

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