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Commodity Sales Prospecting - How to Stand Out From Your Competitors

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I have received a number of requests for advice from salespeople and sales managers that sell "commodity" products and services. When I refer to commodities, I don't just mean pork bellies or frozen concentrated orange juice. A commodity is any product or service where the target prospect is likely to be thinking:

"I get contacted by (X) salespeople a day that sell (whatever they perceive your product or service to be). Why should I spend any of my time with you?"

How can salespeople prospect successfully if their target prospects see them as just one of many possible (and nearly identical) sources for a product or service?

The key challenge when prospecting in a crowded field is finding some way to capture enough of a prospect's attention to convince them to meet with you. This all-important first meeting is the starting point for building a relationship, which in turn is a crucial element of success in "commodity" sales. Here are four strategies that will help you win more of these elusive first meetings:

1. Write and distribute Special Reports.

What special report could you write that would be useful to your target prospects? Conduct the necessary research, write the report, make sure your name is highlighted on the cover page, and get the report into your prospect's hands.

What is the value of a special report that you have authored? Think about it -- How many of your competitors have authored a special report? Do you think authoring a special report might create the impression of significant or unusual expertise? Do you think it might increase your credibility with your target prospects?

2. Deliver Business Interest Seminars.

Seminars are another great way to build credibility and initiate relationships. To be effective, they need to address subjects (ideally, problems or frustrations that your company solves) that your target prospects really care about. You and your company can offer these seminars on your own or in partnership with suppliers or other (non-competing) companies that wish to pursue the same target prospects.

3. Build relationships with other salespeople that sell to your target prospects.

What other products and services do your target prospects buy? Which companies provide those products and services? Who are the salespeople for those companies?

Look to establish mutually beneficial relationships with salespeople from non-competing companies where you can refer prospects to each other. Your success rate for booking appointments from referrals should be much higher than your success rate with cold calls.

4. Learn from successful salespeople in your company that have "cracked the code".

You don't have to re-invent the wheel. Invite the successful salespeople in your company to lunch or dinner. Use your time together to pick their brains by asking them the following questions:

  • How did they achieve success?

  • What are their favorite prospecting techniques?
  • If they are at a stage where they are focusing solely on servicing existing accounts, how did they originally initiate their relationships with these accounts?
    • After the meeting, think about what they said and decide which of the suggested prospecting approaches might fit well with your own talents and interests.


      The key challenge when prospecting for "commodity" product or service sales opportunities is capturing enough of your prospect's attention to convince them to meet with you. This article suggested four strategies to help you win more of these elusive first meetings.

      Copyright 2005 -- Alan Rigg

      Sales performance expert Alan Rigg is the author of How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Selling: Why Most Salespeople Don't Perform and What to Do About It. To learn more about his book and sign up for more FREE sales and sales management tips, visit

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