Common Mistakes With Sales Differentiation
Sales differentiation is essentially the practice of clearly defining and communicating a company or product’s value proposition in a way that sets it apart from the competition. Buyers are turned off by repetitive jargon and marketing terms used to describe a product or service. Instead, they want to understand that product or service’s value to their business goals and how that product or service meets those goals in ways that a competitor can’t.
Often, sales representatives fail to do this succinctly or effectively, usually because of one of three reasons:
They focus too much on what makes their product or service “unique”
It’s important to note here that a differentiator does not have to be something unique; in fact, when considering how to best communicate a product or service’s value proposition, thinking only in terms of what makes that product or service unique is often counterproductive, if not completely inaccurate. When explaining what makes their product or service unique, sales representatives will often point to something like how their technology is customized specifically to a buyer’s industry, or their team’s experience, or their superb customer service. Though these are all valid differentiators, none of these truly make a company unique. Lots of companies have all these things, and claiming otherwise deters instead of engages most savvy B2B buyers who’ve heard similar claims from other vendors many times before.
On the off chance that a salesperson correctly identifies something that really does make their product or service unique (for example, if there’s is the first or only company or product of its kind, or if they’re the biggest in their industry), that still might not convey the true value of the product or service (what value does being the first or only or biggest provide to a customer?). These unique differentiators might be anecdotally interesting, but unless they somehow help a customer’s business needs (be it saving money or time, increasing sales, or any other number of measurable outcomes), they’re not enough to differentiate the product or service from the competition. Rather than focusing solely on what makes a company or its products unique, sales representatives must constantly demonstrate their company or product’s value to the customer.
They focus on only one differentiator
In an effort to focus their value proposition, sales representatives will often return to one talking point or one feature of their product that differentiates them from their competition. “This product is the fastest in the industry,” they’ll say, or “This product is the easiest to integrate into your current sales stack.” Whatever the one differentiator is, they will constantly steer the sales conversation back to it, lauding it as the single best reason why a buyer should buy their product or service over a competitor’s.
Modern B2B buyers are sophisticated and multifaceted. They recognize that there are multiple factors that determine whether a product or service is a good fit for their business. By reducing a product or service’s value proposition to one differentiator, sales professionals oversimplify the buyer’s reason to buy, weakening the argument to select their product or service over a competitor’s. Real differentiation is best expressed not through one aspect of a company or product but rather through a mix of many aspects to create an overall distinction in the buyer’s mind. Not only is that overall distinction more defensible and more difficult for competitors to replicate; it also appeals to the rational sophistication of most B2B buyers, making them more likely to consider a company or product as a viable option.
They differentiate for the wrong reasons
Different contexts call for different approaches in differentiation. There are multiple approaches to setting a product or service apart from the competition, but not all of them are always applicable. In the sales process, sales representatives face one of two different challenges when trying to communicate their company or product’s value proposition:
Convincing a buyer to buy from you versus a competitor
When pitching to a customer who either already has a similar product or service in place or is currently considering competitors, communicating a company or product’s value becomes a matter of comparison. By studying the differences in products, prices, and implementations, sales representatives can identify differentiators that set their products apart, highlighting the ways in which their solution will yield better results in areas specific to the customer’s business needs. In many ways, this is a more straightforward differentiation strategy that requires only some research as well as an understanding of both products or services and their key differences
Convincing a buyer to buy a solution not already in place
Often, B2B sellers have to convince buyers to purchase products or services for which they currently don’t have a solution. Here, the differentiation strategy can be much more nuanced and harder to define; now, the sales representative has to make the argument for a unique solution rather than one similar product compared to another. This requires a focus on the business outcome and a clear explanation of the business outcomes that purchasing a product or service will yield. By focusing on ROI, the sales representative can make the case for a tool that otherwise wouldn’t be considered, differentiating their product through its novel approach of meeting business goals important to the customer.
Understanding the context of a sales conversation helps to frame the differentiation strategy to be used. While both ROI and unique value propositions are both important differentiators, understanding which to highlight can make the difference between closing a deal and marking a sale as closed lost.
By understanding these common mistakes, sales representatives can better plan their differentiation strategies to maximize the chances of setting their products or services apart from the competition in such a way that customers remember, retaining attention and driving sales.
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Posted on August 17, 2017