Be Distinct or Become Extinct:
Differentiate Your Company
By Sam Manfer
select one company from the others based on getting something
“better” from the one than the other. “Better” boils down to
three factors: more benefits, less risks, and/or less effort. All are
unique to the person deciding. Many believe buying decisions are based
on price – that’s never the case. They are sometimes based on
affordability but almost always the decision will be based on what is
perceived to be a “better deal.” Factors that need to be
considered are: who is doing the differentiating and what are the
important benefits they are differentiating?
Macro Differentiation: Macro
applies to the marketing world where a company’s image and its
ability to draw prospects to the company are the main goals. Examples
of this are Nordstrom’s customer service and Volvo’s leading edge
on safety. Service and safety are how these companies
differentiate themselves from the competition. People are drawn to
them for these qualities. Macro differentiation requires lots of
publicity, time, constant repetition, substance and follow-through by
all employees. Management must mandate, reinforce, recognize,
reward and chastise to insure it happens.
Micro Differentiation: Micro applies to selling, where each decision-maker has a
preference on important characteristics and an opinion as to the
product or company’s excellence. Individuals from the same
company usually want different things. This is why
business-to-business selling is complex. You must show each
person involved that you have ‘it’ – the special characteristic
or trait they desire. You also need to show that you can deliver that
‘it’ better than the competition. This is micro differentiation. It
is specific to each person for each sale.
this, the salesperson has to interview each person to understand his
or her vision of a good deal. It may also require helping the customer
develop his or her vision. Once known, the task becomes showing how
this particular product or service fits the vision in a way that the
competition doesn’t. Therefore, to be successful at complex
selling, one must be disciplined to meet the face-to-face, at least
twice, with the many decision-makers. It is especially important to
meet with those deemed to be powerful. Learn the vision.
Deliver the vision. In
selling, one vision and one presentation does not fit all.
Application: Joe, the
maintenance manager, may want good
service (defined in his terms) and Mike, the operations manager,
may want high quality (defined
in his terms). Both may be interested in the other’s desire and both
also want compliance to the general specification written by John from
Engineering. Joe is
sensitive to the kind of service offered and may be willing to pay
more for it. This is not the same as Mike’s focus, which is quality.
To complicate matters further, both individuals may want what each
thinks their boss Al wants. Their perceptions of the Al’s desires
may be correct or incorrect, and will always be affected by their own
solution is to interview all parties to learn what will win each
individual’s vote. The presentations must show each person that he
will get more of his benefits, with less risk, and less effort than
any competitors’ offering.
doesn’t know the persuading factors for the most powerful person and
those that strongly influence him,
differentiation in a proposal or presentation becomes macro.
“This is our global differentiator and you should want it.”
If it doesn’t hit the right chord with the right person,
it’s not going to sell. Some salespeople try differentiating by
including everything. This
makes the presentations long and boring, and the important people
competitors are saying the same basic things each company appears to
look the same. Without the
understanding of who wants what, only the buyers will know why they
decided on a certain competitor. To make a
difference you’ve got to know all the deciding factors of the
situation. If the decision-makers, especially the most powerful, feel
that all the competitors have enough safety built-ins, then Volvo
doesn’t have an advantage. If the boss feels service is an
extravagance, then Nordstrom will seem expensive.
your macro message to build image and leads. Once this draws in the
potential client, interview each decision maker to learn all the
personal desires. Then you can use micro differentiation to win each
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