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Differentiate: The Ability to Stand Out In a Crowd

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
February 8, 2010

The ability to differentiate follows closing because you need to be able to obtain commitments in order to have the opportunity to differentiate. Really, these two attributes enable each other, as often your ability to differentiate yourself and your company is what allows you to obtain the commitment.

What is Differentiation?

To differentiate is to stand out in a crowd. It is to be different in way that distinguishes you and separates you from everyone else. But it isn’t enough just to be different; it is to be different in way that makes a difference. The difference has to be meaningful.

Differentiation in Sales

There are two areas in sales where differentiation is necessary. First, a salesperson must be able to differentiate their product or their service from their competitor’s offerings. Second, and more important, the salesperson has to differentiate themselves from their competitors (this is why the foundational attributes precede the sales-related attributes; it is rare enough to find the combination in a single person that possessing them provides tremendous differentiation).

Great salespeople have the ability to differentiate their product or service from their competitor’s offerings. They have the ability to frame their product or service in a way so as to highlight the differences. They highlight the differences to demonstrate how those differences translate to the improved results that they obtain for their clients.

Great salespeople have the ability to differentiate their product or service by giving it meaning, making it stand for a point of view or a belief system. They leverage this meaning-making to separate their offering from the crowd.

Differentiation is what allows great salespeople to avoid being commoditized, even when what they sell is, in fact a commodity.

Great salespeople know that they are, in part, what the customer is buying. They know that because this true, they have to differentiate themselves from their many competitors.

Great salespeople differentiate themselves by demonstrating the value that they personally will create. They differentiate themselves with their subject matter expertise. They differentiate themselves with the books they read, and the result that reading has on their thinking.

They differentiate themselves with their ability to build consensus with all of their client’s stakeholders.

They differentiate themselves with their creativity and their imagination in building solutions. They differentiate themselves with their professionalism in orchestrating their team.

They differentiate themselves with their personal commitment to ensuring that their client achieves the outcomes that they have sold.

When Differentiation is Missing

When differentiation is missing, the salesperson has a hard time responding to, “You are all about the same,” or “We have never realized any difference.” When salespeople lack the ability to differentiate, they struggle to obtain the commitment to open the possibility of a relationship. They cannot pull themselves out of the pack, and they cannot gain attention.

When salespeople lack the ability to differentiate their product or service, it is difficult to gain commitments to move the deal forward. It is difficult to create a vision of how the client’s situation will be improved, and more difficult still to make the case that their situation will improve over their competitor’s solution.

When differentiation is missing, sales are harder to make and often based on price alone.

When the salesperson cannot differentiate themselves, they fail to create the lasting relationships on which sales (and long-term success) are built. If you are no different than anyone else, there is little reason to choose you over anyone else.


Success in sales is dependent upon your ability to differentiate your product or service in a crowded field. More important still is your ability to differentiate yourself as a salesperson. This is accomplished first by possessing and developing the ten foundational success skills, and then by developing your own personal brand.

The first thing that a customer buys is you!


1. How do I differentiate my product or service? What does my company brand stand for?

2. How do I differentiate myself as a salesperson? What does my personal brand stand for?

3.  What are the differences that make the differences in my product or service?

4. What are the differences that make the differences for my clients when they choose me over my competitors?

5. How do I ensure my prospects and clients feel the differences that distinguish me and from my competitors?

6.  What else could I develop that would create greater differentiation?

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Sales 2010
Post by Anthony Iannarino on February 8, 2010

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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