How to Differentiate Your Solution from the Competition
In today’s crowded marketplace, it’s easy to forget how many choices your buyer has. Buyers have a difficult time differentiating your solution from the competition’s solution. What may be an obvious distinction to you may not be so apparent to the buyer.
So you need to explain why the buyer should select your solution instead of the alternatives. Skilled sales reps differentiate their solutions by highlight features that are important to the buyer where they're strong, and their competitors are weak.
What makes your solution different?
Here are three criteria to identify how your solution is different:
Does your solution incorporate a unique technology? For example, “We use the same encryption used by the U.S. government for ‘top secret’ information. Our encryption is much more secure than our competitors who only use TEA 128-bit encryption.”
Sometimes how you do something is different than your competition. For example, “Our clinical process for operating theaters has passed a JCAHO on-site inspection in three of our installations this year” (Knowing that your competition is not accredited).
Another way you can differentiate your solution is by focusing on the quality of your people. For example, “Unlike many in the industry, all our project leaders have a Certified Information Security Manager Certification.” (Knowing that your competition doesn’t have such qualified staff).
You may also want to think about your differentiators in terms of the criteria your buyer will likely use to select a partner or solution. You should then weigh how you compare to the competition on those criteria. Do you have compelling messaging related to these decision factors?
How does that benefit the buyer?
Once you've identified how your solution is different, be careful not to assume that different equals better. Better is a subjective term that’s up to your buyer to determine, not you. Your job is to help your buyer understand how a differentiator addresses a need of the buyer, that’s what makes your differentiator better.
A simple way to think about differentiators is in terms of features vs. benefits. Most differentiators are features of your solution, characteristics of your product or service with no reference to how it could help the buyer. To be persuasive, you must explain how the feature meets the buyer’s need – i.e., a benefit. Ideally, describe your differentiator to your buyer by (i) including the need they have mentioned to you personally, and (ii) explaining how the differentiator meets that need.
For example, “Our new mobile app lets you access customer data anywhere so that your sales team will be more productive on the road which you said was important.”
If you're unclear about the buyer’s need, ask questions that focus on the buyer’s pain points. These questions can also help remind the buyer why your solution is better than a competitor’s.
Can you prove it?
Of course, if you are going to claim how your differentiator can benefit the buyer, you must support your claim with some form of proof. Otherwise, it'll seem unbelievable. Effective types of proof include product demonstrations, customer testimonials, and third-party research.
In most typical selling situations, you’ll have competition, and that means you’ll need to help your buyer understand how your solution is both different and better than your competition’s. That means helping your buyer focus on that technology, process and people differences in your solution that address a need of your buyer’s.
About David Jacoby
As a Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group, David helps large B2B sales organizations improve sales performance. Previously, David was a Principal at Linear Partners, a sales consulting firm providing sales strategy, sales operations, talent management, and interim management services to emerging growth companies. In the past, David has served as Vice President of Business Affairs of Xylo, Inc., where he was responsible for the Company's business development, sales operations, legal affairs, and financing activities.