If your company is in head-to-head competition for some or all of its sales, it’s vital to have at least one differentiator that separates you from your competitors. No argument there. But, have you considered that you might have differentiators you’re not aware of?
Differentiators are features, products or services unique to your company. Maybe what you offer is cutting-edge and innovative. Maybe it’s a better/faster/cheaper version of what other companies offer. As long as what you offer is different from what prospects can buy elsewhere, you have at least one differentiator. Even a unique combination of otherwise ordinary features, products or services is a differentiator.
So, how is it possible you aren’t aware of all your differentiators?
Your company has a view of itself from the inside. For example, maybe your company made operational improvements out of necessity to hang on during a slow period.
Everyone inside the company witnessed what went on behind the curtain. But the view insiders have of who (or how) your company is might not match your customers’ view. What was viewed internally as a necessity, logical next step or a desperate gamble may look to the outside world as innovative.
Or it would be viewed as innovative, if you knew to show off the effect of your changes to customers and prospects.
When you compete head-to-head with similar companies for new customers or projects, you rarely get a voluntary, candid, complete scorecard telling you why you did or didn’t win. You’re generally left making assumptions about which current competitive advantages helped you win and where you should make changes to strengthen your competitiveness.
Instead of making assumptions, why not bring customers into the conversation?
The differentiators that matter are the ones customers recognize and value, so reach out to your customers — but not all your customers. Since the objective here is to help you win more often, focus on the two customer groups with insights that can strengthen your sales process: new customers and “raving fans.”
New customers know your competitive advantages. They just reviewed the landscape and picked you. Why did they choose you? What was different (better) about your proposal or offer? Was your sales process compelling, or did reference checks cinch the deal because current customers knew what to emphasize to a peer?
Raving fans know what’s so great about you. Long-time customers may no longer know if the benefits they value are unique to your company, but they know what they like about you. Ask how they describe you in reference checks. To monitor whether changes you’ve made are being felt by customers, ask what seems to have gotten better (or worse) over time.
Finally, close the loop by incorporating all the ordinary and unique benefits customers emphasized into your marketing and sales material.
The best use of differentiators is as a competitive advantage in the pursuit of new business. If you have a differentiator you aren’t aware of that you don’t use to your advantage, you face two risks. First, a competitor might market an inferior differentiator effectively. Second, a competitor might copy your advantage, market it effectively and win business that could easily have been yours.
Unfortunately, no significant differentiator creates a competitive advantage for long. Your window of opportunity to use a differentiator to your advantage could be limited.
If you ask your customers what makes you great, you’ll have fresh insight into what makes you different.
Ann Amati, a Principal at Deliberate Strategies Consulting, helps companies use guidance from their current and past customers to grow future sales. She has a 20-year track record of using deep-dive interviews to create positive turning points in her clients’ relationships with their customers.
In her national practice, Ann has clients who sell millions to companies that make billions and sole practitioners/LLCs with more modest practices.
Contact Ann Amati when you want to know what your customers think. You’ll start making faster, more confident decisions.
This post originally appeared on ezonearticles.com and is published here with the permission of the author.
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