Thoughts and ideas from SHAKE Marketing Group

Selling in a Sea of Sameness
Featured in: The International Journal of Sales Transformation

When your competitors are floating in a sea of sameness you need to make sure you are waving not drowning.

In the second of a series of articles in which Dr Simon Kelly and Dr Paul Johnston explore customer value and differentiation, they are joined by co-author Stacey Danheiser to ask: are you selling in a sea of sameness?

In this article, they discuss the findings of the first phase of their research programme in which they are seeking to understand how differentiated organisations are from each other and, more importantly, in the eyes of the customer. Their research has led them to conclude that customers are left swimming in a “sea of sameness”, where companies all seem to be telling the same story. In this article, they begin by providing some background on their research programme before discussing why lack of differentiation and distinctiveness is an important issue to tackle. They explore the implications for salespeople who are left selling in this sea of sameness. They offer a view on the heightened importance of the sales role in shaping differentiation before taking a forward look at where their research is going, which the authors are hoping readers can help with.

They draw on their book Value-Ology: Aligning Sales and Marketing to Shape and Deliver Profitable Value Propositions (Kelly, Johnston, Danheiser 2017) to help inform this discussion.


We became interested in how differentiated companies were in their marketing communications because credible research we found while writing “Value-Ology” pointed to customers typically being 60% of the way through the buying process before they contact a salesperson (CEB research) at which time 67% of the customers have a clear picture of the solution they want (Sirius Decisions).

The fact that the first 60% of the sales cycle is now spent interacting with company marketing communications through internet searches, company web sites, twitter feeds and the like places an extra onus on marketing to make it clear to customers why their organisation is better and different from competitors in ways that have relevance for those customers.

We suspected that typical company marketing communications were not providing relevant value propositions, as 94% of customers claimed to have disengaged with organisations because they were being sent irrelevant content that gave them no value (CEB research). We knew that for B2B organisations, this lack of differentiation was having a telling effect on sales success – as 58% of sales deals end in no deal because the customer has not been convinced of the value in moving from status quo (Qvidian Sales Execution research). Against this backdrop, we set out to explore for ourselves how well-differentiated organisations were in their marketing communications. The main thing we were interested in was how easy companies were making for customers to make informed choices based on what was being communicated to them.

Read the full article here: Sea of sameness_Journal of Sales Transformation


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