Twice in two months I have asked a group of salespeople and their sales managers what exactly differentiates from their competitors. In both cases, neither the salespeople nor the sales managers could answer the question. I don’t mean that they couldn’t effectively answer the question; I mean they couldn’t answer the question.

If you would win your dream client opportunity, you have to be able to differentiate yourself and your offering in a way that makes a difference for your dream client.

Teaching Different

I am not suggesting that the two sales forces above don’t have a differentiated offering. In both cases, they do—or at least they could have. But in both cases their salespeople can’t quickly, confidently, and effectively communicate those differences to their dream clients.

Without the ability to effectively communicate what makes you different and how it makes a difference for your clients, you give them no reason to choose you over your competitor. It is your job in sales to provide your dream client with all of the reasons that they should choose you over you competitors.

If you are in sales management or leadership, you must take the time to carefully craft the message as to how you are different and why it matters.

It’s not easy, but if you can take five or six key differences and boil them each down to a single statement, you can arm your sales force to answer the question: “What makes you different?”

When you teach your sales force to answer these questions (or, if you are in sales and you write these answers yourself), you also teach your dream client to answer the questions that she is asking herself about you—and you are teaching her to answer the question when she is asked by people within her own company.

It’s Not Me Too!

One of the ways companies and sales forces find themselves in the commodity trap is that they try to match their competitor’s offerings. The problem with matching your competitor’s offerings is that is has the opposite effect of a differentiation strategy.

If the best you can do is to be the same as your competitor, then there is no reason to choose you over them. If there aren’t clear and visible differences that translate to a meaningful difference for your dream client, your dream client decides on price (not cost, because producing greater results is a differentiator—if you can prove it).

Strategy is as much about what you choose not to do as it is about what you choose to do. Arm your sales force (or yourself) with the ability to tell your client what makes you different and how it benefits them. And it’s a good idea to tell them what you don’t do that makes you different, too.


The one thing we do different that makes the greatest difference to our clients is ________________.

The one thing we do better than anyone else in the world is ______________________.

The one thing we believe that causes us to behave or act differently in a way that is meaningful for our clients is _______________________ and it makes a difference by ___________________________.

Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on March 24, 2011
Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an author of four books on the modern sales approach, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. Anthony posts here daily.
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