I have just returned from the largest solar energy exposition in the world. Thousands of products were on display and I personally spoke with hundreds of company representatives.

When attending a massive trade show like Solar Power International, you’re bound to see many competing products. There were numerous companies offering solar panels, fuse holders, enclosure boxes, sure suppressors, racking systems and many, many other somewhat ‘vanilla’ products.  Of course, no one sees their product as the same as a competitor’s offering. But there are many products used that appear no different from manufacturer to manufacturer. (Do you care who made them when you buy nails?)

Let’s look at an example. Consider something as basic as a “Mounting Widget”. I don’t want to offend anyone so I’ll use this as an example item. Think of it as something just about every solar project requires. It’s a relatively simple item and prices range from $26 to $150 each.

I saw a lot of these Solar Widgets. The reps would approach me and open with the same line, “I see you use ABC Widgets. We’ve got a Solar Widget that is vastly superior to theirs.”  Then comes the technical speech. I got hear hear about the special materials used, the latest new technology employed, the special way of doing things or the ‘secret’ process built into the design.

A solar company will buy thousands of these Solar Widgets per year. The cost, as I stated above, ranges from $26 to $150 each.

I mostly talked with the $100+ manufacturers. I wanted to see how they were selling an item I could buy for $26.

What’s the first question that came to my mind?

No. My first question is not about price. It never is. Think about that. Don’t YOU usually gather information before you ask “how much?”

My first question was always the same: What makes your Solar Widget special?

The reps would then begin to ramble through features and specifications that I either did not understand or care about. The $26 Widget I use works just fine so why should I pay $75 more for a different one? I didn’t hear a single reason to change what I’m doing now. The $26 item works. I’ve had no product failure. So why should I spend 300% more?

Everyone talks about the market, all markets, being totally driven by price. It’s just not true. Markets are driven by price because sales personnel do not understand how to sell.

Please think about this. If your product costs more than your competitor’s, I want to know what will make up that difference if I choose the more expensive product.  Period.

Failure to make the case that I will recover the price difference will cost you the sale regardless of the treasure trove of exotic features your product offers.

In other words, spewing features at me doesn’t tell me how I recover the that price difference.

Think about this. If you know your price is above the low end, how can you:

1. Differentiate your product to ME
2. DEMONSTRATE to ME that the cost difference will RETURN to me

(I emphasize ‘me’ because not all cases are the same. So why does the salesman give the exact same pitch over and over?)

If you can’t do those two things, you’re wasting time and money pitching your product.

Chris Reich