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Breakthrough Performance

Five stellar ways to steal the show from your competition
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the September 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Whether you realize it or not, every time you close a deal, you're practicing breakthrough selling. A breakthrough is defined as any significant advance or development that removes a barrier to progress. Your goal for every sale, therefore, is to remove the barriers that your prospects place before you.

Breakthrough selling is not about performing outrageous stunts that will set you apart in the customer's mind. Instead, it's all about creating relationships-listening, qualifying and understanding your customers' needs better than anyone has before. Here are five proven strategies to do just that:

1. Offer superior service. Service is what keeps you in business for the long haul. It's your track record that builds current customers' confidence in you and attracts prospects to you. You must be able to say "Try us, and we'll prove that we will consistently do what no one else will."

2. Provide unique value. The best way to bring extra value to your customer is to understand his or her business better than anyone else out there. Get to know the customer's company, the people involved and the industry as a whole. This kind of knowledge will be your differentiating factor.

The concept of adding value applies no matter what you sell. Every time you go into an organization and ask questions about the company's needs and goals, you have another opportunity to look for ways you can support their vision. You'll become an asset to the company, one that they will not easily trade in for another vendor.

3. Customize. Even though your product or service may be similar to others on the market, it's your job to make it as customer-specific as possible. Call customers regularly to find out how they're using your products, what they like about them, what they don't like, what they would change and how they would make them easier to use. Then modify old products, and design new ones to match the information gleaned from these customers.

4. "Sell through." Your objective should be to help customers sell more of whatever they sell. The more you help your customers sell, the more they're going to order from you. You "sell through" by showing your customer how your product can provide solutions to their challenges. You can also help them sell by "bridging" (connecting XYZ company with ABC company-even if you have no stake in pairing the two).

5. Build solid relationships. Striving for the four factors above will definitely help you rise above the product parity that is so prevalent today. But the most important differentiating factor of all is who you are and how well you connect with your customers. How many times have you heard of a salesperson leaving one company to join another and having all his customers go with him? That's because each one of those customers had a special bond with that salesperson that was stronger than the bond to the product he sold.

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