How To Differentiate Yourself From Your Competition
How do you differentiate yourself in sales when your competitor is selling the same or almost identical product or service? This was a question that a sales person raised with me recently and I thought of how common this occurrence will be.
Many of us in our sales roles are selling products or services that are so closely matched to our competition that it’s hard to differentiate. Or even some sales people will be selling the exact same thing as competitors. If I think of wholesalers or merchants, they’ll sell the exact same products as their competitors. Or IT sales people, often they’re selling the exact same hardware and software solutions as their competition.
So how do we stand out from the crowd? How do we differentiate ourselves from our competitors?
Well first of all I want to address the scenario of selling similar products or services to our competition. In such circumstance the thing to remember is that in sales
Perception is what matters
So what do we mean by this. Well it’s the customers perception that is key, we need to influence their perception of the product or service which we sell in order to differentiate our solution. Let me use an example. I was working with a software provider and part of their pitch was their reporting tools. Now for all intents and purposes their reporting software was no different than their competition. But I saw their sales people explain it in such a way that it transformed the customers perception.
They could have merely said “we offer reporting tools, this is what they looked like.” However they honed in on this area, they knew that actually the reporting side of things was incredibly valuable to their customers. So their focus was to demonstrate:
- How extensive the reporting can be
- How other customers use the reporting software
- The Return of Investment that can be achieved through acting on the reports that are published
In reality their reporting tools were no more feature rich than their competition. By they demonstrated them in such a way that the customers perception of them associated more value to their reporting tools than other alike solutions.
So first things first, don’t forget about how valuable the customers perception is. Even if you are selling an alike solution, the way you explain it can transform its perceived value.
So just reflect on this part quickly and ask yourself how you can change the value perception of your offering?
The next part I would like to address in the article is when you’re selling solutions which are identical in every way. The tips we recommend here are applicable for any sales person but are of most value for those whom are desperately looking for ways to differentiate themselves.
We believe that in such circumstance, the two most powerful plays in your arsenal are:
- Customer Service
- Your personal Value
Selling the same product or service isn’t your limitation, your customer service is. For many, customer experience is the only way to differentiate yourself. They can buy X widget from the store down the road but they come to you because they feel special for whatever reason that may be. Earl Nightingale addresses this in his book ‘Lead the Field’ for which I have added an extract below:
“In New York City ,a Korean family managed to buy a small convenience grocery store in midtown Manhattan. The first thing they did was clean it. The store sparkled with cleanliness. Then they stocked it with all the grocery items they felt the people in their area wanted. They were open early in the morning. They stayed open late at night. They never failed to give a friendly greeting to their customers. Naturally, they became wonderfully successful.”
This Korean family were in the position of struggling to differentiate themselves so they focused on:
- Tailoring their products selection to their customers
- Having a clean store
- Opening early and staying open till late
- Providing a great customer experience
Just because you sell the same widgets or service offering doesn’t mean the customer service or customer experience can’t be your big differentiator and selling point.
Your Personal Value
Often you as the sales person are the differentiator!
Your personal value causes the customer to buy from you. Typically it comes from likeability, it’s true that people buy from people. I wrote an article on this previously which you can find here:
In conjunction with likeability comes added value. That’s often where a sales person gives great advice and/or understanding/empathy. For those whom have read the challenger sale this is the ‘Teach’ and ‘Tailor’ parts which can be valuable to a customer.
So think about your personal value. Can you offer valuable advice to the customer which saves them aggravation down the line like “I’d advise you consider the upgrade to this as it only cost an extra X but with that you also get Y which will protect against Z.” or maybe your advice can help them save some money “I see that you’re interested in X but this product is the exact same but its white labelled and will save you much more money.”
Your expertise and advice can make all the difference, and if applied correctly can ensure that customers keep coming back to you instead of going to competitors even if your competition can sell them the same thing at the same price.
In closing to this article, it’s also important to mention price. It’s all too easy to get into a price war when you feel your product or service is similar or the exact same. Refrain from price wars, yes you need to be competitive but leverage that which you can control. Obtain and maintain the customer by excelling in the customer experience and leverage your own likeability, people buy from people and they always will!