We work in crowded marketplaces. Even after the recession wiped many companies from the face of the earth, it is more than likely that you still compete against a lot of companies with very similar offerings. It is hard to differentiate yourself and your offering, and your dream clients tell you so. They ask the question: “I get calls like yours all of the time. What makes you different?”
Answering the question as to what makes you different with your newest products, it’s features, and it’s benefits isn’t enough to entice them to give you their time. You need a list of differentiators. You need a list of differences that have the ability to make the difference for your dream client.
The differences in offerings can be rolled up into four categories: your people, your ideas, your beliefs, and your ability to execute.
Undoubtedly, your clients have heard the response “It is our people that make us different.” Try it and I promise you that you will hear: “Yeah, everyone says that.” That answer doesn’t say enough.
The basis for all differentiation and value ever created for any company anywhere is, was, and always will be created by people. But not just any people.
The people who are worth spending time with are resourceful enough to create solutions to their client’s most pressing problems. They are determined enough and they care enough about their clients to achieve the outcomes they sell, even when it is unreasonably difficult to do so. And they own the outcomes that they sell.
This narrows the field considerably. Your answer needs to tell the client something more than the fact that you have different people. Your answer needs to tell them how the different people will produce different results, results that make a difference for them and their company.
Your answer needs to say: “One of the primary differences is our people, and I know you have heard that before. But our people are more resourceful, we have better ideas, and we execute our ideas to make a difference for our clients. I’d love to share with you how some of our smart people are helping one of our clients with a particularly difficult business challenge and the outcomes we are achieving. Maybe we can explore doing something to create similar value for you.”
In business-to-business sales, value creation comes from ideas. People generate those ideas by applying their resourcefulness and their creativity to solving complex problems.
Your ideas need to be different in order for you to differentiate yourself. Your company’s ideas need to be different in order to separate it from the competition.
But more than just being different, your ideas have to be better. You have to have ideas that make a difference for your clients.
And you have to be able to sustain the ability to create better ideas over long periods of time. You have to continuously reinvent yourself, and so does your company. This is the art of innovation. Think Steve Jobs and Apple.
When you are asked what makes you different, you need to be able to reply: “We have better ideas. I want to share some of them with you.”
Your company takes a certain view of the world. That view provides the structure and the substance to the company’s belief system. It is your company’s culture; it’s ethos. Two companies that sell identical products or provide identical services almost always have wildly opposed beliefs (think Wal-Mart and Target).
How you view the world, and how your company views the world, provides the belief systems that underlie how you create value for your dream clients. It is a platform that sits underneath and surrounds the people and the ideas that differentiate you from your competitors. Your beliefs are part of that culture, and you are both influenced by it, as well as influencing it yourself.
How do your beliefs differentiate you from your competitors? When your dream client asks you what makes you different, you need to be able to answer: “We have a very different belief about what we do, how we do it, and how it enables our clients to achieve better results. I’d love to share some of our beliefs about our industry and our ability to do meaningful work with you . . . after I learn more about you and your ideas.”
Differentiation Equals the Execution of Better Outcomes
It is more than likely that your dream client isn’t really seeking an answer to their question about what makes you different, especially if the question is the result of your cold calling. It is their attempt to ensure that they don’t waste their time with salespeople who cannot differentiate themselves or their offering, a sure signal that they have very little to offer in the way of creating value and probably nothing new to offer.
But differentiation really comes down to your ability to produce better outcomes. Better outcomes are produced not by your people, your ideas, or your beliefs alone. Better outcomes are produced when these three factors are combined and executed well. It is always about the execution.
And since as the salesperson you own the outcome you sell, it means that you ensure these factors combine in execution because of your beliefs about who you are and what you do (heavy stuff, I know).
When asked, you can reply (in addition to the ideas above): “We have the people, the ideas, and the belief systems to execute in way that produces better results for our clients. I am different because I own the outcomes that I sell. I’d like to talk about how I can leverage what we have put together to help you with your most pressing business challenges.”
This is the difference that makes the difference. You might even answer the question as to what makes your different this way: “In a lot of ways we are similar, but let me tell you about the differences that make a difference for our clients.”
We sell in crowded marketplaces. In order to gain your dream clients time and attention, you need to be able to differentiate yourself and your company from your competitors. Differentiation is found in your people, your ideas, your beliefs, and your execution.
- How do you answer the question: “What makes you different?”
- Does your answer indicate that what makes you different will make a difference for your dream client?
- If you believe your people make you different, how do convey that in a meaningful way to your dream clients?
- What ideas differentiate you and separate you from your competitors and how do they create value for your dream clients?
- What are the belief systems that inform your company’s view of the world? What are your personal beliefs about what you do and how you serve your clients? How do you convey these beliefs to your dream clients in a way that is meaningful to them?
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