stand out, not in

February 7, 2020

 In an era of sameness, it is tough to set your business apart from competition. Customers have dozens of options to choose from, and your company may get lost in the maze of choice. Fine-tuning your sales pitch is an imperative, now more than ever, requiring an overhaul in strategy and an emphasis on key factors.

 

Listen to your customers, listen to your employees, do what they tell you. – John Sall, co-founder, SAS Institute. Good advice. What if your salespeople tell you your customers do not see any difference between you and your competitors? Well, in our experience, this might be true but it is unlikely. How can we say that?

Most organizations and products deliver benefits. Let us imagine you can list 10 benefits that you deliver to your customers. Some organizations would give this list to their salespeople and tell them to go and sell. What is wrong with that? This is called an ‘all benefits’ value proposition. Another way to describe it is as a shotgun value proposition—fire all 10 messages and hope that one of them works for your customer.

What is different to what your competitors offer?

One problem with the shotgun value proposition is that it is likely most of the 10 benefits are similar to your competitors. So, if you use this approach, then your customer will probably see you as just the same.

Another problem is that your salespeople will not simply list the 10 benefits because they know the customer will be bored; people do not have the time to listen and find out what is relevant to them. So, salespeople will pick three or four benefits and talk about these. Will all salespeople pick the same four benefits? Unlikely, so different messages will be given to different customers and the market will get different messages.

So, what should you do? Well, first identify from the list of 10 benefits which ones you are better at than your competitors. Normally, when you do this exercise, you will find that there are only two or three benefits where you are superior. Managers and salespeople get uncomfortable when they realize that most of the benefits are the same and there are only a few differences.

However, the key point here is that you are not just the same. So, you can use these few benefits to create a value proposition that answers this question for the customer: Why should we buy from you instead of your competitors?

If your message is clearer—saving your customer time and making your customer money—then your message is far more compelling.

But, what does the customer care about?

Answering the question about why they should buy from you instead of competitors is a good start. But, what does the customer care about? What is important to your customer?

Gary Peacock is Head of Innovation and Research at Gordian Business, and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is also the co-author of Persuading for Results and Managing B2B customers you can’t afford to lose.

A classic 2006 Harvard Business Review article, ‘Customer Value Propositions in Business Markets’ by James C. Anderson and others, encourages you to find the one or two points of difference, plus one benefit where you are similar to your competitors. These three benefits should deliver the greatest value to your customer. When we say value, we mean financial value.

Too many managers and too many salespeople stop at general claims of benefits.

If your message is clearer—saving your customer time and making your customer money—then your message is far more compelling.

Your message should be so compelling that you can answer the Owen Corning question: How does the customer know if they make more money working with us instead of our competitors?

Summary

In today’s tough economic climate, we must move from being order takers to proving to our customers that we can deliver more economic value than our competitors. To prove we can deliver more economic value than our competitors, we must first judge how our service compares with our competitors’ alternative services. Once we know where we are different, we must ask customers which of these differences are most important to them. These differences are often called buying factors.

To prove we can deliver more economic value than our competitors, we must first judge how our service compares with our competitors’ alternative services.

For best results, do not include price as a buying factor. To be clear here, we must identify no more than three buying factors that are important to them. One of these buying factors may be something that is critical to the customer, but where you are almost identical to your competitor. This is called a point of parity.  The other two buying factors are those that are important to your customer and where you are better than your competitors. For these three buying factors, show your customer how they save time and make money, and you will compel your customer to buy from you. They will buy from you because you are not the same, you are different.