Using Differentiators to Sell

It’s inevitable.  If you have a good product, in a good market, you’re going to face competition.  You have two options.  1) Put your head in the sand and ignore their existence, or 2) learn what differentiates your product from theirs, and how to use these differences to sway a potential customer in your favor.  Good sellers must understand where their products are strong.  But, great sellers recognize their weakness in advance and prepare to handle their weaknesses in ways their competitors can’t capitalize. 

For the purposes of this post, we’ll be discussing “microdifferentiation”, as opposed to “macrodifferentiation”.  You’re definitely familiar with macro.  These are things like advertising, marketing, and promotions.  They provide overall positioning to a product, but it’s very hard to get down to the individual customer using macrodifferentiation.

Microdifferentiation deals with the individual.  This is important when your customers potentially have a wide variety of decision criteria.  For example, as a novice biker (someone who just needs to get from point A to point B) the only thing that really matters to me is price.  However, if I were an avid biker, I might care about things like the weight of the bike, what it’s made of, the tire size, etc.  And, what’s more, a different biker may have an entirely different set of requirements.  Microdifferentiation gives you the opportunity to personalize your pitch to a specific person, and show them why your product is the best for them.

Hard Differentiators v. Soft Differentiators

Hard Differentiators are things that can be quantified, or measured.  It’s easy for the buyer to compare one hard differentiator to another.  Soft differentiators are things that can’t be easily compared.  For example, how do you easily compare the quality of your product to another.   

Stating the obvious, a good differentiator is one where the seller’s product is measurably better than the competition.  To keep with the bike example, if your bike is 5x’s faster than the competition’s, the success in your sales process depends entirely on finding this differentiator.  It’s your job as the seller to influence the buyer and develop the buyers need for speed.

Sometimes, it’s the case that you’re at a decided disadvantage when it comes to selling your product versus the competition.  It may be the case that your buyers decision criteria is based on hard differentiators where your competition is clearly better than you.  In this situation, your job is blur the hard differentiator.

Using the above example, lets say speed is an important decision criteria and the bike your selling won’t reach the same speeds as the competition’s.  It might be the case that it takes longer for the bike to reach its top speed.  Your product may have better acceleration, making the average speed comparable.  The competitor’s bike may be fast in down hill situations, but horrible going up hill.  It might be the case that the bike handles top speeds well on a straight away, but not around curves.  There are many ways to make your competitors seem weaker in the eyes of the buyer.  However, this can’t be done without understanding what your seller values, and what differentiates your product.

When it turns out that your product is strongest in areas that might be soft differentiators, the best thing you can do is teach your customer more about that particular area.  For example, if your product’s competitive differentiator is quality, then it’s your job to teach your buyer about what quality means.  Teach them about the intricacies of your product and what makes it stand apart from the competition.  Why does quality matter?  What will it mean in the long term?  How will quality effect the bottom line?

For example, with HomeField, our product requires that our customers upload large video files to the internet.  No matter how fast your connection is, uploading video is going to take sometime. This time period means a lot of things can go wrong.  As a solution to this problem, and to make our product the most reliable on the market, we’ve built a resumable uploader.  Uploads on HomeField never fail, and this is a level of reliability that our competitors can’t match.  However, just telling the customer we’re the most reliable on the market won’t cut it.  They need to understand, and experience if possible, what reliability means.

Differentiation is key.  It’s the reason someone chooses your product over another.  It’s important that your product stands alone in some aspect, but it’s equally important that you understand what those differences are.  A deep understand of these differentiators can be a powerful tool when it comes to closing sales in a competitive market. 

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Notes

  1. mollykmoran reblogged this from joeyevoli and added:
    A good discussion about how to use differentiators by joeyevoli.
  2. joeyevoli posted this