What Makes Your Business Different?
Fact: there are only two ways to sell. One is to be the cheapest the other is to be different.
Unless you can produce products or services substantially cheaper than your competition and still make a good margin there is little merit in being the cheapest on the market. If you are perceived as cheap or are prepared to discount substantially to win business you not only devalue your brand, but also allow your client to gain the upper hand in negotiation. So the next time you try to do business you can fully expect them to push for an even better deal if they know you capitulate so easily.
"What really matters is not what you believe your differentiators are, but how your client perceives you"
The only other way to sell is to be different, but what does that really mean? Look on most company websites and you will see a list of what they believe to be their key differentiators such as: ‘our people, our products, our dedicated customer service, our unique brand, our innovation, our passion, our flexibility etc.’
The problem with most companies saying something similar to their competitors is that the difference between them is negligible in real terms, so they become platitudes instead of genuine USP’s. There are only a handful of businesses like Google, Apple or Microsoft who can genuinely lay claim to possessing a truly unique offering.
What really matters is not what you believe your differentiators are, but how your client perceives you, in terms of the value you bring to their organisation. In an increasingly Procurement led world it is all too easy for sales people to use the all too familiar excuse ‘we lost on price boss’!
However, in most cases the real reason they lost it is because the client did not perceive the difference in terms of ‘added value’ to justify paying a premium over a less expensive solution. Critically the sales person has not fully understood what the client wants to achieve or what their key priorities are, and has possibly also failed to point out the potential consequences of making a decision based solely on price. The cost of reputational damage is incalculable, but that is often a consequence of ‘buying cheap’.
"The cost of reputational damage is incalculable, but that is often a consequence of ‘buying cheap’."
Becoming more ‘client centric’ in terms of understanding what we commonly term the ‘SISI Principle’ is critical to business success. How can we help the client to Save time or money; Improve process; Solve mission critical problems; or Increase speed, profit, turnover etc.
If you can’t demonstrate to your client how your product or service can achieve this better than your competitors, you will be perceived as a relative ‘commodity’, however if you can convince them you will not only be their provider of choice, you will do so at the margin that suits your business.
Bryn Thompson is Sales Director for the Strategic Alliances Division at Pareto with over 20 years experience in Recruitment and Sales Training working with major Blue Chip clients.