What Makes You Different?
It’s probably one of the most powerful questions in sales and for sales people. There are so many important dimensions to this question.
Customers challenge us with that question. If we focus our differentiation on our products, solutions–too often, the only differentiation is our price. We have to find different answers to that question.
Some years ago, Geoffrey Moore suggested that what makes you different wasn’t the product–but the total product or extended product offering. Things like customer service, quality, the power of the brand, our expertise, the reputation of the company. But again–there are lots of quality alternatives, so we get sucked into price competition.
Insight helps make us different. We shift our perspective to helping disrupt the customer’s thinking about their businesses. Perhaps helping them identify new opportunities, maybe opportunities to improve their operations or internal performance. Insight gets our customers hot and lathered, wanting to change–but change is difficult. Too often, on the way, they lose their way (according to the CEB, often around 37% through the buying process.)
Being prescriptive in the opportunity/problem solving/buying process makes it easier for the customer. It helps them avoid the pitfalls that may derail them. It helps them know what they don’t know, it helps them understand what it takes to be successful in achieving their goals. We provide a lot of value to the customer helping them with this. After all, we’ve been through the same process hundreds of times with our customers–so we can create a lot of value with the customers. If we are alone in helping the customers do this, then that makes us different.
Customer experience is becoming an important differentiator. It’s a huge source of differentiation–really reflecting the long term experience customer have with our organization.
But maybe there’s another step–it’s even more important. While it’s important to us to be perceived as different– and superior to the alternatives, these forms of differentiation are really about us.
But what about our customers? What makes them different? It’s an important issue for them in competing and growing their businesses. Perhaps, the question we should be considering is not what differentiates us in our customers eyes, but what is it we can do to help our customers differentiate themselves to their customers.
How can we help our customers differentiate themselves? Do we offer a proprietary technology that enables them to set themselves apart from their competition? Do we offer capabilities that enable them to shift the competitive landscape? Do we bring them new processes, different ways of doing business that enable them to differentiate themselves.
Perhaps as we engage our customers, the most important way we can be different is by helping them be different.
There’s another completely different area where this issue, “What Makes You Different,” is important to us. It’s as sales professionals, what sets us apart from all other sales professionals? Is it your ability to make the numbers consistently–but what is it that you do to achieve that? Is it your commitment to continue learning and developing? Is it your commitment to doing the work? Do you manage your time more effectively? Do you engage customers more effectively?
If you aren’t different from every other sales person, it’s difficult to differentiate yourself and your company to your customers, and even more difficult to help your customers answer the question for themselves.