Are Your Salespeople Selling Price Like Sam’s Club or Value Like Nordstrom’s?

Doug McMillon, CEO of Sam’s Club, was interviewed in the October 27 issue of Fortune.  He said that people are spending about the same money as before but on different things, as the cost of food and energy has reallocated their discretionary spending.

We were at Nordstrom’s today and I noticed two things that were unusual for such a “dismal” economy.  Despite the fact that there wasn’t a sale taking place and they don’t have low-end or discount pricing, they were busy.  And they were staffed – three people were taking care of my wife – all at the same time – and they had more people to help if needed! Yet, if you walk into the discount stores and need someone to help you’d be out of luck. They are down to bare bones.

So what does this say about the state of the economy and more specifically, about discounting and trying to win business based on price?

I received an email tonight from a fan of Baseline Selling asking for help with his positioning statement.  Here’s what he sent me:

“I’ve been very successful helping owners and CFO’s who have had so many insurance quotes that it makes their head spin but who don’t understand how to reduce their overall cost of risk in their business. I thought you might want to invite me in to learn how our free risk assessment helped other business owners reduce and predict insurance cost in all markets.”

As most salespeople do, it was way too long, and focused on the wrong issues, using price as an enticement to get in the door.  He used “quotes”, “reduce” (2x), “cost” (2x), and “free”.  Do you think he sounded any different from the other agents that are calling these owners?  Do you think they want to talk with him?  Let’s ut it this way, if they wanted to talk with him he wouldn’t have emailed asking for help.

Here’s what I suggested he use instead and, as you might expect, it follows the Baseline Selling syntax for an effective positioning statement.

I help CEO’s who can’t stand all of the insurance agents that always call at renewal time. Can I ask you a question?

I help a lot of CEO’s and the two things I hear most right now are, one, they’re not sure how to assess all of their risk, and two, they’re not sure how to determine how much of that risk affects their premium. Does any of that ring true for you?

If you are not a Baseline Selling apostle, you may not understand the reasoning behind the choice of words or the message but you can still take my word for it that this will work for him.

Do your salespeople have formal positioning statements?

If they do, are they identifying the issues that differentiate you from your competition?

If they are, is it working consistently?

If your final answer was a “no”, here are some more questions:

Is it their message or their ability to engage and deliver it?

Is it their lack of hunting ability or their lack of willingness to hunt?

Is it their willingness to hunt or do you have the wrong people?

Do you know how to find out?