The #1 Sales Complaint — Part III on Sales and Marketing Differentiation

Take a look at SAAS, which stands for software as a service. It is an industry and business model founded by Salesforce in 1999. It is a way to go to market with software by only offering it as a subscription service, something companies and consumers pay monthly for access to. Salesforce, the company, is the founder and market leader in CRM software and a whole bunch of other software services. Salesforce is absolutely not the cheapest CRM on the market; but they market themselves, position themselves, and sell themselves as the best CRM on the market. They are also long-standing leaders of the CRM marketplace. Note that there are lots of competitors in the CRM software marketplace. Note that some might even say today’s CRM software is a commodity due to its hyper competitiveness and vast availability at strikingly different price points. Yet there goes Salesforce, leading the market with its high prices, selling B2B left and right.

When in doubt, look to Salesforce.

Look at this simple equation: best in market + high prices = great margins and great business. Salesforce chose to be great, dedicated themselves and the entire organization to be the best, proudly offered their CRM solutions at what some might say “high” yet firm prices, and have thusly blown the competition out of the water. Salesforce is not the cheapest CRM for businesses and they make no bones about that. The company, the products it offers, and the people who serve it all have their points of distinction of what they bring to the marketplace. It is vetted and well thought-out. Salesforce’s Salesforce brings a great story, great products and an awesome company that backs everyone up to market. It is a nearly unbeatable combination. And it is impressive.

Ask your customers what makes you different or distinct.

When you’re selling B2B, you must discover and market your points of distinction. How are you different? Think hard about it. Ask around. Ask your customers. Ask people you perceive to be creative or who think differently what they feel are your firm’s points of differentiation. And be more specific than simply saying, Our people. Our people make the difference. Yes, OK, people make the difference, but what is it that the people do or stand for or think or make others feel that makes the true difference? The real points of distinction? What do they stand for? What do they stand against? This is truth in market positioning.

Even in B2B, Yes, People still buy from People.

Those selling B2B strangely forget that even in business to business selling, people are still buying from people. These are not monolithic, faceless corporations doing business with one another. People run businesses. People do deals. People buy and sell to one another. And it is people who create, set & position themselves in the marketplace to stand out from others.

Take a look at Arnold Clark, a local photography company. Most people would agree that photography, even expert photography, is a commodity product or service. It would seem that most people wouldn’t pay up — 5x to 10x higher in prices — for something they could get elsewhere far cheaper. Yet, here we are.

Most photographers’ go-to-market strategy is to be all things to all people: they’ll shoot anything and anyone, anywhere. They’ll take all the jobs (i.e. weddings) they can get. They’ll give away the rights and licensing to the people they shoot in production. Why hang onto them? Anything to pay the bills in this hyper competitive marketplace. Right? They may put together some photography packages for people, market them and call it good.

Arnold Clark positions itself for high school senior photography, a very specific target market. Professional, timeless photography for high school seniors and marketed to their mothers. Arnold Clark is definitely not the cheapest photographer in the marketplace. Nor are they the most high tech. They don’t stand for cheap. They don’t stand for tech. They stand for exceptional quality, timeless photography with limited supply.

Seek to control outputs or deliverables.

Look at what Arnold Clark does with supply / output. They control everything, from marketing to distribution to production to especially viewing the outputs. They refuse to put their photography online for all to see. Well, it isn’t for everyone. They completely control the product and the process and its results, and they make no bones about it. If you’re anything like me, someone who is used to all things digital and its immediate output and its results, their process is infuriating. And yet it works for them because when we left, there were two dozen people waiting in their lobby area to be photographed that morning. They said it would be six weeks before we’d see finish quality family photos. We’re still waiting. And I think about looking at those photos every day. Talk about building anticipation…

Arnold Clark got creative in not being like all the other professional photographers in the marketplace. They got creative by not putting all their photography online. They got creative by limiting supply and making the viewing experience personalized and special — and by appointment only. They then get even more creative in controlling the output. They won’t give customers the digital files of their photos with the orders. They’ll only give customers prints. That’s right: analog prints. And they’ll charge you a princely sum for them and make you thank them for it. All things considered, Arnold Clark may be lucky to still be in business with such practices, but their reputation is so well protected and vaunted in the marketplace offline at airports, schools, malls and other businesses that they thrive selling an analog output in an all things digital world.

What can we learn from that example for sales differentiation? See if you can control outputs. For example, in Sales Differentiation, Lee Salz talks about you creating an RFP template for your prospects who demand RFPs. This is a great idea because it helps you control the selling process with proposals. If you control the selling process, it gives you the upper-hand in winning the business. If firms mandate that they get three bids, OK: ask if you can help set the parameters for the bid itself to ensure they get the best offer. If you concentrate and market what’s in it for them by you helping make their job easier, they’ll likely take you up on it.

I’m a sales, marketing and tech Pro who creates content designed to help people solve problems and shift perspectives.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store