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Why your feature or function differentiation doesn't really matter -and what you can do about it

· neurosales

As a seller, how do you really know your messaging and positioning is actually working?


Categorization is a powerful function of our brain. Our brains take up about 20% of our energy, but only consist of around 2% of our weight. If, every time we approached something new, we had to find another place in our brain for it, it would sap all of our energy. Thus, we categorize things.

So, when we hear a product pitch, our brain is seeking the easiest path to a file folder.

“You probably compete with Zendesk, right?”

“Ah, I got it. You’re like the Uber of demand generation.”
“Oh, ok, so you’re the Netflix of sales training content.”
“Ok, sounds like we would think about you as an alternative to our current CRM.”

And, if it’s not being verbalized by the listener in that way, it’s likely being thought of that way. Your feature or function differentiation? It doesn’t really matter a whole lot to the buying brain’s filing mechanism.

The Science

Back in 1932, psychologist Frederick Bartlett conducted a study similar to the telephone game. The study started with one person. That person was asked to study an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph (basically a symbol). After a period of time, he would take it away, and have that person attempt to draw it from memory.

Then, the next individual would study the first participant’s drawing the same way, and attempt to draw that from memory. They did this repeatedly until ten people had attempted to draw the previous person’s drawing from memory.

The tenth person drew a black cat.

You’re working hard on your messaging, and the listener is subconsciously trying to commoditize you into something he or she already is familiar with. That has dangerous consequences, eh?

An Idea

So, here’s the idea to help in understanding whether your messaging is resonating with your target. Set it up from the beginning, then ask at the end. Here’s what I mean…

At the beginning of the meeting, communicate the following to the prospect:

“Could I ask you your opinion on our messaging? We’re always trying to improve, so, here’s the ask: At the end of the meeting I’m going to ask you, ‘If you were to position us to your boss after we leave, how would you do it?’”

At the end of the meeting, ask the question:

“As promised, when you speak to your boss later today, how would you describe or explain what we do?”

Think about it. If you are asked to summarize learnings from a book you’re about to read, you likely read it with intent. If you’re asked to do homework on something you’re listening to, you’re likely to listen with intent.

By doing it that way, it’s (a) transparent, (b) tees up the listener to fully engage in the discussion, and (c) the feedback will be really enlightening, giving you the tools to clarify with the buyer, but improve your messaging overall. That prospect feels good about themselves, having contributed valuable feedback to you and your company. A partnership is forming...


Give it a try. Would love to hear how it works out for you!

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