Two salespersons, Sarah and Amy, are each selling a product.

Sarah’s presentation is carefully-crafted to include certain key phrases which she recites with well-practiced cadence. She asks questions, but doesn’t address your answers. She also asks, “Who else are you considering?” and blurts out, “Copycats!” implicitly insulting you by calling into question your judgement. At the end of her presentation, she asks, “So, do you love it?” In fact, she probably already knows what you think because of how you answered her earlier questions.

Amy’s presentation is similarly carefully-crafted and because of her experience, reliably delivered. But when she asks questions, she listens to your answers and talks about how her product might meet your needs, or if there is an alternate product that comes close, talks about that. She doesn’t sneer when you mention you’re also considering other products and in fact offers alternatives that might better suit your needs. She has a call to action, but it’s qualified, based on suitability.

So what is the difference between them?

One is product-centered, while the other is customer-centered. 

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and we can recognize the strengths of our competitors. If we find the person standing in front of us is in need of what that competitor does well and we do not, does it not make sense then to direct the customer to the competitor? Sure, you might lose this particular sale, but the customer will be happy because you’ve helped meet their needs. That requires confidence in yourself and your product and while it’s probably harder than summarily dismissing your competition, in the end it will be the better move for all.

Practice being customer-centered, rather than product-centered, and with time it will become second nature. It will lead to happier customers, your team will be happier because you have ideal customers, and of course your business will be more resilient for it.