What is the #1 Most Underrated Differentiator in Business?
You’re in sales. You’re pretty good. You’ve got good numbers. Then, your company’s product group releases a something that, while good, is similar to competitors’ offerings. You know, like five of them. Dang, you think, how is ours different? Only you struggle to answer your own question.
You ask around R&D, product, and marketing teams for answers. No one has anything concrete you can take to the streets. You discover that you’re on your own. Another one person island out roaming the field, grasping for answers to differentiate another new product in a crowded marketplace.
OK. What you sell is exactly the same as what the other guy sells. You know you’re going to get asked this question. It is the elephant in the new product room. What now? What’s next? How do you address this?
If you’re in sales and marketing, you better have a good answer to this question of differentiation. You must be prepared. If the tables were turned, you’d want to know the answer, too. Because if the sales guy doesn’t have a good answer for you, you’d pick the lowest price as well. We all do. In the sea of sameness, with differentiation absent, we go with lowest price. It is logical and natural. In sales, you must be different in the best possible way.
In the sea of sameness, with differentiation absent, we go with lowest price.
Strangely, most companies go-to-market strategies and messaging are the same. This transcends industry. It doesn’t matter if they’re in contracting, sewing, food & beverage, or retail, the sales and marketing materials read the same. They’re chock-full of we: we’ve been in business for 199 years; we are an industry first; we’ve got the best people; etc. It is like they’re justifying themselves to the prospect. Here’s what we’ve done, they say. Only they forget that nobody cares what they’ve done until they know that they care. People need to know that you care first before they want to know what you’ve done. Caring is underrated.
Caring is Underrated.
How do you show that you care? Dedicate a good portion of your marketing budget to taking people out to eat. Get to know them. Ask them questions about their personal lives. Listen. Buying people food and drink is arguably the best investment you can dedicate sales & marketing dollars to. Take them out. No excuses. If you’re serious about business, be serious about food. There is no better way to build and enhance existing relationships. Taking people out and buying them dinner is the gateway to know, like & trust, the true reasons why people buy.
How else do you show that you care? Get to know your customer’s business so well that you would be successful working there. While your customer expects you to know some things about her business, she does not expect you to be an expert in her business. Some people in sales and marketing know so little about their customer’s business that is astonishing. Don’t be this person. Be better. Know your customer’s business almost as well as he knows it himself. Talk regularly with him about how what you sell allows him to produce more or profit more. Everyone wants higher profit margins. Help him get there.
How else do you show that you care? Be there when things go wrong, because they inevitably will. Be in the trenches with your customer. Know their business so well that when issues arise, you know who the right people are inside their organization to call. Providing the sales engineering and tech support after the sale are vital to ensuring the relationship stays strong. Problems arise. When they do, what do you do? Be there.
Highlight People in your Marketing.
How else do you show that you care? Highlight people in your marketing. Those new to your product and those who have never heard of your product are not interested in your product — yet. They are not that interested in your product yet because you haven’t done anything to engage their interest. Well, what would engage their interest? How about an unexpected story a customer of yours went through? People love well-told, captivating stories, especially from the perspective of those in their industry. Note that no one cares about your product until they see people who have overcome challenges like theirs using your product. Then, they start to care. Then, they start to be intrigued. Then, they begin to get it. The well-told customer story provides prospects and those new to your product context, which is what nearly all marketing messages miss. They begin with product, which is a big mistake. You don’t begin messages with product — you begin with problem. Problems require attention. Problems require action. Problems require people to talk about them and to solve them. The product is all well and good, but the people using the product are the heroes, not the product. So, highlight the people using the product, their problems, their challenges, using their own words, their language, to describe the problems they encountered on their journey to the Promised Land. An unexpected, well-told story provides some of the best marketing money can buy, and it doesn’t even cost that much to produce it. By telling these customer stories, it not only shows you care, it generates care in others.