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So, What Makes You Different?

Anthony Iannarino
Post by Anthony Iannarino
January 17, 2011

The question as to what makes you and your company different is either the easiest question in the world to answer, or it is the most difficult question to answer. For some salespeople, it seems easy to answer, except that they say something that sounds exactly like what everybody else says when asked.

This question is too important to go without a well-thought out and well-crafted answer. If you can’t answer this question, later answering the question “why should I choose you?” will be even more difficult.


Stock Answers Aren’t Different

The first answer some salespeople are tempted to throw out when asked, especially when they are in B2B sales or a service industry is “our people are what makes us different.” Rarely is this ever a defining and difference-making differentiator. You have some great people, no doubt. Your competitors also have some great people.

Then you get to things like “we are different because we are all about relationships.” Same thing. You surely have incredibly deep and powerful relationships with your clients, and so do your competitors.

Execution can be a differentiator by itself, provided you can prove it.

Here are a few ideas for you to mull over about what differentiates.

My Favorites

Two of my favorite differentiators are beliefs and values. A company’s beliefs about who they are can be a powerful and defining differentiator. So are their values.

Your beliefs and your values can create a platform to explain why you do what you different than your competitors, as well as the greater results that you are able to produce by possessing those beliefs and values. These are hard differentiators to defend against.

I have a client who is very honest and very transparent about their pricing model. They believe that they shouldn’t collect fees from their partners that they don’t disclose to their clients. So they just don’t do it. Their beliefs about who they are and their values, especially their honesty and their integrity, are defining, difference-making differentiators in their space. As a competitor, if you follow them into a presentation and are asked to disclose your relationships with vendors and your undisclosed fees, you are already in a losing position.

Beliefs and values start at the top, and too many companies overlook their worth as differentiators—especially today.


The Synergistic Effect

Sometimes the defining differentiator isn’t one thing, and it isn’t really beliefs and values. Sometimes it’s a combination of things that when all rolled up together produce greater results and make you different.

For some companies it’s a combination of technologies coupled with a service model that produces greater results together than either one taken alone. For some companies it can be an even greater combination of little differences that make up a bigger difference.

Making a combination work means answering the question like this:

“There are four things that make us very different than our competitors and allow us to produce greater results. First, we have a service model that is based on an individual account manager, rather than passing you to whoever answers the phone. This means our people know your people, they understand your business, and they understand how to help you without you having to start over or retrain our staff every time you call in.”

Different by itself isn’t enough. Your differences have to make a difference for your dream. They have to help you answer the question as to why your dream client should buy from you instead of somebody else.

If you can’t answer the question to what makes you different, do your homework and write and rehearse your scripts. This will also help you with the trouble you have just getting in!


Can you answer the question as to what makes you different? Is it something your competitors might also say—or do also say?

How does what makes you different make a difference for your clients?

Does your company have an underlying belief structure or values that differentiate and define you in your industry? How do those differences translate to something meaningful for your clients?

If you execute and perform better than your competitors, how do you prove it? What allows you to perform better and why can’t your competitors copy you? (think about Southwest airlines—lots of competitors, no one has pulled off the model so well).

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4729.

Join the Future Selling Institute and connect, learn and grow with a community of sales managers, sales leaders, and salespeople who aspire to lead.

Read my interview with Tom Peters (Part One and Part Two).

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Sales 2011
Post by Anthony Iannarino on January 17, 2011

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino
Anthony Iannarino is a writer, an international speaker, and an entrepreneur. He is the author of four books on the modern sales approach, one book on sales leadership, and his latest book called The Negativity Fast releases on 10.31.23. Anthony posts daily content here at TheSalesBlog.com.
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