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Unique, Differentiated, But Are You Relevant?

By: Dave Brock


It’s critical that we differentiate our offerings and solutions from the alternatives the customer is considering. Marketing, product management, and sales all spend endless hours trying to figure out that differentiation, to create that edge. But too often we get it wrong.

We focus on unique features and functions of our products, how our approach is different and better. About a year ago, someone shared a differentiation document their product management team had put together. It was 200 pages. It went through each screen and each field of their software product. It had very valuable tips like, “The way the customer enters the date field is very different than the way it’s done by our competition.” or “The drop down box in this field provides the customer easy and consistent choices……, versus our competition which has a text entry box only….”
You can imagine a 200 page document filled with these “critical differentiators.” Surely, all we have to do is drop a copy of this on the customer’s desk, and they will be driven to issue a PO.
Or we seek to be unique, “We’re the only company in the world that allows you to enter all your data in Hex!” But who cares!
For differentiation or uniqueness to be valuable (remember, we are all about creating value for our customers), it has to be relevant! If the customer doesn’t care about it, or it’s unimportant to what they are trying to achieve, our attempts at differentiation only waste their time and aggravate them.
Until we understand what the customer values, until we understand what they are trying to achieve we can’t begin to determine our differentiation or uniqueness. Because, what each customer values is different! Once we understand this, we can determine the differentiators or areas of uniqueness that are relevant and create greater value to the customer.
So stop wasting your time creating endless lists of how you are different. It’s meaningless. Tell your marketing and product management people they can be spending their time more productively than putting together tomes on the finest points of differentiation.
Invest your time in understanding what your customer values. Then look at the areas of differentiation that are most relevant and add value.
Above all, never forget, the most sustainable area of differentiation is created by sales. It’s the value we create in engaging the customer and guiding them through their buying process!
This article was originally published by Partners in Excellence
Published: April 29, 2014

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Dave Brock

Dave Brock is the founder of Partners in EXCELLENCE, a consulting and services company helping to improve the effectiveness of business professionals with strategy development, organizational planning, and implementation. Dave has spent his career working for and with high performance organizations, ranging from the Fortune 25 to startups, including companies such as IBM, HP, Nokia, AT&T, Microsoft, General Electric, and many, many more. The work Dave does with business strategies is closely tied to personal effectiveness of the people in the organization. As a result, Dave is deeply involved in the development of a number of training and coaching programs.

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