Differentiation: Shorten Your Sales Cycle by Clearly Staking a Claim

Differentiation: Shorten Your Sales Cycle by Clearly Staking a Claim

Keeping customers can be a challenge. Getting new customers is even tougher. It means a lot of time, investment and service before they become a sustainable relationship.

What if there were an easier way? What if you could get your reputation to precede you in a way that CLEARLY differentiated your company from the competition—and got customers coming to you, rather than your salespeople constantly chasing them?

That’s what a truly differentiated brand is all about. No, not a logo—it’s all about the promises you make to your customers and prospects and the experience they have with you (and tell others about).

It’s possible to dramatically shorten your sales cycle. But it takes some hard work to dig beyond the superficial claims most companies make in order to get to they key unique value propositions that customers are willing to pay more for.

What differentiates your business? Please don’t answer “service,” “quality,” or “price.”

Why not? Because nobody cares. And they don’t believe you in the first place. They’re looking for a great experience they can count on.

Now, service, quality, and price do play a role, but when everyone says they have the best service … the highest quality … the best prices, it loses all meaning. Buyers put these things into consideration, but you lose if you make them the be-all and end-all.

The customer has changed and has different expectations than in days past. They have unique needs and expectations, and are looking for customized solutions. They are forming opinions about you before you even know they exist. They want a great experience.

That’s the premise that Apple was built on: Think Different. Steve Jobs knew the experience was more important than the product, price, or policy.

It may be counterintuitive, but focusing on the emotional experience easily pays more dividends than does justifying the rational facts. Don’t get me wrong; that doesn’t mean service/quality/price aren’t important.

It’s just that everyone says they have the best service, quality, price, people, etc. In fact, they’re the price of entry into the buyer’s selection set. They expect it. If you don’t have at least a couple of those going for you, don’t bother. And when everything else is equal, you’re not going to get the sale unless you’re willing to sell at rock-bottom prices.

Rather, take some time with your team and your customers—or an outside advisor—to figure out what really moves them. What will make them FEEL differently about you. And if it does come down to service, quality, or price, dig deeper to find out what about those makes you different. Describe the “why.”

For example:

  • Service. What is it ABOUT your service that’s different from everyone else’s? Do you have some sort of program built around it that the customer can count on? How do you make it tangible to your customer?
  • Quality. Is your product truly higher quality than the competition? If so … so what? WHY does that matter to your customers? Do you have some sort of quality program built into delivery? Can you prove that it matters?
  • Price. If it’s price you’re relying on, can you really offer the best price in good times & bad? Is it sustainable for the long-term? Do you have some sort of exclusive supply chain that the customer can count on?


What about culture?

In my discussions with manufacturing leaders, many have sought to differentiate themselves from the competition by focusing on what’s on the inside. Some are claiming to have better people or better culture than their competition. But there’s a caveat to that: if you’re going to stick to your guns on that point, you’d better be able to prove it. But I bet you can’t.

I’ll buy that you’ve done a great job hiring. That your process is better, or that you have an awesome training program, or you’ve got an unbeatable guarantee. Even that you have incredibly high standards.

But what does that DO for ME? Do I believe that you have better people than the rest of us? Nope. But I do care that the people you have are treating me right and they’re delivering that consistent great experience you’ve promised me in all your ads. Fact is, the moment they don’t live up to those expectations, you’ve done more harm than good by relying on that claim.

When I hear about companies that claim to have “better people,” I know that the truth is that they haven’t scratched below the surface to discover what truly differentiates them from the competition. They either aren’t different, or they don’t know, or at the very least can’t articulate it. Dig deeper.

Find what really sets you apart and stake a claim.

If after all this you STILL can’t find something that differentiates you, invent one that you can own and authentically live up to. You might even be able to wrap it up into an exclusive guarantee of service, quality, or price. That’s something that’ll resonate with customers … they’ll know they can count on a great experience with you, because you’re promising them something tangible.

But that’s a last resort. Chances are, there’s something you’re overlooking that makes you special in the eyes of your customers. See if they’ll tell you, or find a third party who can research it for you. And then build your brand and plan your experience offering from there.

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