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The Key To Differentiation

by David Brock on March 25th, 2012

Differentiation is critical to sales.  It sets us apart, enabling our customers to distinguish between alternatives.   In the absence of differentiation, it becomes difficult to win—often the differentiator is the price.

Differentiation is increasingly difficult.  Products increasingly look the same.  Any alternative the customer is considering will probably do the job.  There may be small differences in features, functions, capabilities–but these are wiped out with the next new release of a product from our competition.

Company reputation—it’s size, strength, position in the market, and other things may be differentiators.  But in today’s world of buying, it may not be.  When customers develop a short list of alternatives to consider, largely any alternative will satisfy them–so company reputation has probably been neutralized by this point.

Don’t get me wrong, all the things we have thought of as differentiators in the past are important–strong, compelling products, quality, great company reputation, strong awareness and visibility.  These are the things critical to get into consideration and to earn the right to be shortlisted.

But if those are table stakes, where do we differentiate ourselves?  How do we avoid falling back on pricing as a differentiator?

What we do is the ultimate differentiation!

Let me repeat with emphasis, What We Do is the ultimate differentiation!  It’s not what we say or what we claim–it’s what we do.

What we do is critical to differentiation and winning.  How we engage the customer, how we work with the customer–whether challenging, facilitating their decision making processes, or proving ourselves trustworthy; it’s what we do that sets us apart.

What we do delivers on what we say or claim.

What we do is the active demonstration of what we stand for.

What we do is the manifestation of our customer experience.

What we do puts substance behind all our marketing, all our positioning, all our claims and promises.

What we do creates our reputation–personally and as organization.

What we do has nothing to do with a sales or marketing program.  It is not a strategic initiative.  It’s composed of the little things.  Showing up to a meeting on time–prepared.  Being genuinely interested in customers and what they are trying to achieve, demonstrating that through thoughtful, perhaps provocative conversations.  It’s delivering on our commitments–both before the sale and after the sale.

We are constantly being evaluated and judged–by our customers, our peers, our managers, our community.  In a world where differentiation is critical, where setting ourselves apart–distinguishing ourselves, our performance, out solutions, our companies–what we do is our differentiation.

What we do differentiates us, both positively and negatively.  If what we do doesn’t align with what we’ve said; if what we do is to fail to meet our commitments; if what we do doesn’t match with the expectation we have created; then we will lose.

What are you doing?  Is it helping you or hurting you?

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