“We treat our people better than anyone else.”
This was a response received during an internal workshop 20 years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. The question was: “What makes us unique from our competition?” We, at the time, were in a highly competitive field with little or no overt (identifiable, observable, etc.) qualities that made us unique. Sure, there were subtleties but nothing that really mattered to the end client. After a lot of wrangling, we finally came up with a few that stood out and had measurable impact for the sales team.
In thinking about how to position what you do for your clients, are the points you identify really differentiators? Or, are they just things that sound good to your ears or have not been truly thought out as setting you apart.
There are five commonly held means of achieving the goal of setting ourselves apart: Convenience, T&C’s, Capabilities, Brand/Risk Mitigation, and Price. Unless you are a gas station, let’s leave price where it should be…in the trash bin! Unique capabilities are by far the most effective means of achieving competitive differentiation. What is it that you do (remember, and it has to solve problems) that cannot be truthfully stated by your competitor? Is what you are saying defensible? Can you provide concrete examples? Why should the prospect care?
Done well, differentiation can lock out your competition, create preference for your offerings and enhance your price position. We must also keep in mind a few central principles to ensure we do a thorough job of differentiating:
- Do these capabilities solve problems that our prospects have or will encounter?
- Do we guide the conversation using Problem and Solution Probing questions to uncover need and enhance our definitions?
- Are we helping our prospects discover that these capabilities matter, or are we telling them?
- When clients ask us what is new and exciting (start the discussion in the Solution box) do we back the conversation all the way up to their own Business Issue?
- Do we link these differentiators to the outcomes they produce… the value?
Truly differentiating is not easy… it is extremely impactful and valuable… it’s just not easy. And that is why not everyone does it!
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