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Are You Really Differentiated?

by David Brock on October 20th, 2020

We all know the importance of differentiation. If we aren’t differentiated from the alternatives, how does the customer choose? If we can’t create differentiation, price becomes the differentiator.

Years ago, the primary differentiator seemed to be our products/solutions. We sought to demonstrate the superiority of our offers by the capabilities we offered in our solutions.

But we’ve learned product based differentiation is table stakes. We’ve learned the customer’s all of the alternatives on the customer short list will solve their problems. Of course there are nuances and differences, but too often, these are irrelevant to the customer.

We try to extend our differentiation to the customer experience in using our products. We offer great customer support, tools, and so forth (or at least we claim too; the real experience may be very different). But here again, customers do their homework and those solutions they short list will meet their requirements for support.

More recently, we’ve discovered it’s the sales person that is the differentiator. Sales people who help customers think very differently about their businesses and their jobs. Sales people who help customers identify new opportunities or solve problems, improving their performance. Sales people who help customers learn new things. Sales people who can help customers navigate their buying journey. Sales people who can help customers make sense of what they face.

The sales person is still the most important differentiator in the customer buying experience.

But the problem is, are we creating differentiated buying experiences?

We make our customers victims of the same prospecting sequences. It may be the email, “Big companies are using our products, I’d like to talk to you about how you can use our product.” Or it may be the LinkedIn connection or message, “Your background in [fill in the blank] is interesting…” Once the connection is made a sales pitch follows.

Then we subject our customers to the exact same process–regardless of our solutions. An SDR goes through their script to qualify us, listening selectively to the responses with the sole objective of scheduling a demo. Then we go through the demo–the same demo everyone else goes through. Then we go through a process where our questions about the product are answered, we get a quote and proposal, then the sales person says, “I can do better for you, if you order by….”

It’s become the same, the same selling formula, is used by every sales organization, regardless of the solution. We process our customers through the same process. A process that is designed to maximize our efficiency, not one that is designed to create a differentiated customer buying experience.

We have, in service to quantity, volume, efficiency, designed our differentiation out of the customer’s buying experience. We have designed our processes to look exactly the same as every other supplier, not just our competition, but every other sales organization.

We have designed our selling process to be perfectly predictable–to us and to our customers.

I sit with my clients, listening to sales pitches being delivered to them. I experience the same “sales call” hundreds of times–the product may be different, but the process my customers are subjected to are undifferentiated.

I come back to the question, “How do we differentiate ourselves, our companies, our offerings, and the customer experience?”

If we are all the same, how does the customer choose? They have to look to other places, other channels. Perhaps it’s conversations with colleagues or peers. Perhaps it’s research on the offerings. Almost always, the differentiator becomes the price……

How we engage our customers, how we help them learn, how we help them navigate the change management/problem solving/buying process, how we help them make sense of what they face, how we help them realize their goals and dreams is still the ultimate differentiator. We just have to make sure this process is differentiated and creates value in every interaction.

What are you doing to set yourself apart to your customers? How are you creating value and differentiation?

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2 Comments
  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    “More recently, we’ve discovered it’s the sales person that is the differentiator. Sales people who help customers think very differently about their businesses and their jobs. Sales people who help customers identify new opportunities or solve problems, improving their performance.”

    We’ve known for a long time.

    Once upon a time we’d ask WHY ME?

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