Differentiating Yourself

By Alice R. Heiman

Are you selling marketing services, insurance, real estate, financial services, printing, web design, telephone systems, office products, staffing, internet access? How do you stand out in a crowd? With so much competition these days how are you acquiring new customers and retaining the ones you have?

The key is to build Relationships, understand, educate, help them choose the best solution and then continue to serve and educate.
In order to differentiate yourself you have to figure out how you are different from others who sell the same thing and then position yourself that way. So you have to know why people buy from you.

Why do people buy from you anyway? You need to know what the reasons are so that you can capitalize on them. Salespeople often have a long list of product features and benefits that differentiate their products. Unfortunately, none of these may be the reason that people actually buy from them. There are usually only two or maybe three key reasons and those reasons are unique to each customer. Find those reasons.

Know why people buy from you, don’t guess. Ask your customers. They can tell you exactly why they chose you over the competition and why they stay. Typically it has a lot to do with you, the relationship you build and the education and service you provide. Since few companies have truly unique products and services the way to stand out is by understanding the customer and serving their needs.
Once you know why people buy find more people like them. Target your market. Don’t try to sell to everyone. Find the group that you can relate to, are most knowledgeable about and most comfortable with. This will make selling much easier. Specialize in the product or service that best serves your target market and lead with that. Trying to sell everything to everybody will not help you stand out from the crowd.

Many salespeople bombard prospects with information. Instead stand out by asking good questions and learning about their needs then match the features and benefits of your product with their needs. You will move the sale forward much faster this way and learn more quickly when it is not a good fit before too much time is spent on either side.
If things are moving forward educate. Remember your job is to help the customer make a good decision on the best solution, which may be yours. Chances are the prospect needs more education on your industry and possible solutions in general. Find sources of information and experts on the topic to help them learn. Your job is to help them make the best possible decision even if that excludes your product or service.

Know your competition. Who do you compete with? What are their prices? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Do they offer something you don’t? How is their customer service and follow up? Although you want to say as little as possible about your competition and never want to bash them in any way you need to be prepared to answer questions from prospective customers. Sometimes the truth is that you have nothing over the competition as far as features, benefits or price but you can match them and you know the prospect’s industry, understand their needs and are focused on helping them reach their goals. The truth is sometimes people make their final decision based on the fact that they like you, but don’t take advantage of that. If you are not the best solution to their problem this could backfire on you.

Imagine telling someone that your solution is not the best for them and referring them to someone that can provide what they need. The credibility you build will last a long time.
If after educating the prospect your solution is still the best then follow up and deliver what was promised. Be persistent but don’t be a pest. If you have several competitors the ones who don’t follow up will be gone. I can’t tell you the amount of business that is lost for lack of follow up. Standing out in the crowd means having excellent follow up. If you are afraid to follow up because you are not sure if the prospect is still interested then ask. Perhaps they are just busy or need to communicate a different way. Communicating in their preferred method is another way to standout. If you can’t reach them by phone, ask how they prefer to be contacted.

Build great relationships, ask great questions, know your competition, be prepared to educate, follow up and you will find yourself standing out from the crowd.

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