I read a wonderful quote from Colin Shaw, “If you take away a company’s products, what do you have left?*”
It’s a critical question each sales and marketing professional needs to answer—ultimately, that’s your differentiation. That’s the value customers want that will cause you to stand out and win.
Don’t get me wrong, your products and services are what get you in the game in the first place. So great products and services are mandatory. Increasingly, however, they are table stakes.
In today’s world of complex B2B buying, by the time you’ve become shortlisted, any of the alternatives will solve the customer problem.
All your features, functions, feeds, speeds, features, benefits are meaningless. The fact that your competition may have a few more bells and whistles is meaningless.
What sets you apart and causes you to win is not your product. It’s the “stuff” that sits outside your product.
It’s a huge problem for lots of sales people. All we know are our products–yes we may know a little about our brand, our company’s strength in the markets, and so on. But the things most critical to the customer are not about the product we offer.
So what is it? It’s really about the value we create for the customer–both long before they even decided to buy, through their buying process, and the value they realize and their experience after they buy.
When you take away your products, it’s those things that are left–oddly, it’s those things that are most important to the customer.
The customer knows they can buy a solution from any number of vendors. But they are looking for help, they are looking to be educated or taught, they are looking for help in organizing to buy. They are looking for help in justifying their choice–connecting that to the critical priorities in selling to their management. They are looking to produce results–to extract the value they expected in implementing the change and selecting your solution.
Sit down right now, take a look at your most critical deals. Take your product out of it. What’s left over in the mind of the customer?
If there’s nothing–probably the only strategy is to discount the hell out of your offering, make sure you are the lowest price. But it may not be the winning strategy.
If your competitor has thought about this issue and answered the question. If there is a rich set of experiences, starting long before the customer decided to change, continuing through their buying process, moving through the value they realize, and the experience they realize with the solution—these are the differentiators, this is why customers choose a specific solution.
If you take away your product, what’s left? If you can’t answer that in terms relevant to your customer, then your ability to win–and serve your customer is very limited.
Make sure you can answer that question.
*This quote came from a wonderful article from Bob Thompson: Are You Competing on Customer Experience to Keep Up, Get Ahead, or “Leave a Dent”?