The number of businesses out there that sound, look and act precisely the same is increasingly alarming to me. A good test is to knock out the logo from a piece of creative. Or even put a competitor’s on it. Does anything really change? If not: you’re undifferentiated. And differentiation, when you’re busy trying to sell your proposition to time- and attention-pressured people in today’s increasingly aggressive market, is everything. That’s one of the key things we were discussing at the recent Successful Selling Expo.
Most businesses are me toos, using the same arguments and claiming broadly the same benefits as their competitors. The number of businesses who think they are ‘the same as everyone around them’ and appear to be comfortable with that is astonishing. This perplexes me for several reasons:
- If you’re not differentiated, you can’t stand out – and you’re essentially invisible in a crowd
- If you’re not differentiated, your sales funnel is the same as everyone else
- If you’re not differentiated, you’re always fighting on someone else’s territory
- If you’re not differentiated, you are dependent on the personal relationships of your sales team – and this may not be sufficient, or may be uneven
- If you’re not differentiated, you cannot challenge the customer – or be seen as a trusted advisor; you have nothing new to add
- If you’re not differentiated, you will become a commodity sale – and beaten by anyone more innovative, or cheaper
- In an increasingly brand-focused buyer market, if you’re not differentiated, you can’t appeal to a buyer’s emotional triggers – and all buyers, even business buyers, obey their emotional triggers
- In an increasing tough sales environment, if you’re not differentiated, you won’t sell.
Still fine not being differentiated? Marketing and sales teams are being stripped back, entire technology budgets are being reduced. Customers have more choice. They know they’ll get a good price. What they want is someone who gives a good price AND can challenge and think of new ways to solve their problems – and someone offering something different. And they will get it. It just won’t be you, if you don’t sound, look, act and BE different. And the key to all of this is to think in a differentiated way – because differentiation begins and ends as a state of mind. Only by thinking creatively, thinking in new ways all the time do you find where your difference lies.
It’s time to examine the way your sales proposition is taken to market. To see if it truly differentiates you – your product and services, your approach to the market. If it doesn’t, then as a sales organisation you are being let down, limiting your exposure to the right buyers in the right places and context – and mindset – to buy.
To do that, it’s time to seek and find real, sellable differentiation. Whether it’s within your product or service, or your methodology, or way of working. It’s time to bring everyone together from every relevant field – sales, marketing, brand, leadership, products and services – to discover, agree and nail down that differentiation once and for all. This is an always exciting, always positive, and always creative process that will energise the entire sales and marketing organisation. And then it’s time to communicate that to the world – and just as importantly, within your business. So sales teams are armed for anything, and the entire business aggregates around that single-minded differentiation that gives you an edge, gives you control over your sales funnel, unifies your teams, and enables you to be the trusted advisor that today’s buyers want.