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In a time when there are too many sales organizations chasing too few prospective clients, differentiation is difficult. Because most industries have a glut of competitors, your contacts believe what you sell is a commodity. One way you can differentiate your products and services is by using a positioning statement. A positioning statement is a short statement about the value proposition a company offers its prospective clients. Much of the time, they are created and developed by the company's marketing department.

Salespeople use these statements to differentiate their offerings or approach from their competitors. They also use the positioning statement to describe the unique value of their products or services. For example, I used a positioning statement to describe my company as "boutique." Expanding on that idea, I would position the company as "high trust, high value, and high caring.” Following that, I would share that we were "large enough to have the resources to take care of the client's needs while still being small enough to tailor our services to our clients."

What Makes a Powerful Positioning Statement

The example above positioned my company against the much larger companies I competed with every day. Because I could not match their size and scale, I used a positioning statement that would neuter their competitive advantages. What makes for a powerful positioning statement is its ability to speak to something that is valuable to your prospective clients. It needs to be compelling to your contacts, and the best way to do that is to speak to the strategic outcomes your clients need. To do this, your positioning statement must state what is different about your product, service, or approach. My larger competitors could not change their processes to tailor them to their clients, so the idea that we were big enough to take care of our prospective clients’ needs and small enough to give them what they wanted was compelling.

Your positioning statement should be brief. A few short sentences should be enough to make your point. It should also help to speak to your client’s needs and your company's values. If you can find a word or a short phrase that conveys the unique value your company creates, you make it easier for your client to understand and remember. It should also speak to your target market, and especially to your dream clients, those companies that need the value they find in your statement.

The Mistakes of Differentiating and Your Positioning Statement

One mistake sales organizations and salespeople make is believing that sharing a slide deck with information about their company, their clients, and their products and services is enough to differentiate them from their competitors. Without a positioning statement that frames the conversation and explains what is different, most clients believe the salesperson and their company is a commodity.

In Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative, the chapter on triangulation strategy is based on my experience competing against larger competitors. Instead of saying anything negative about my competition, I complimented them for their size and scale before confessing their sins, specifically, their inability to change their program. Sometimes, the positioning statement can disqualify a client, and other times it can lead them to disqualify you. This is often a matter of strategic misalignment between what you offer and what a prospective client wants.

Your positioning can make it easier for your clients to recognize your differentiation. It can also make it easier for you or your client to recognize you are not right for each other. There is no reason to pursue opportunities where you will not create the value your prospective clients need. You are better off finding a prospective client that needs your product and service and will appreciate your positioning.

You can improve your results by being who you are. Instead of wasting time trying to compete for clients who need something your company doesn't offer, you free up your time to pursue the clients that will value your positioning statement and your value proposition. This is true, even if you have a higher price than your competition. If you charge more and invest more to help your clients succeed, don't be afraid to use that as part of your positioning.

How to Use Your Positioning Statement in Sales

Sales leaders and sales managers need to ensure their teams have a positioning statement. They also need to ensure their sales force can use their positioning statement to differentiate from their competitors and speak to the value their clients need. Without positioning your company and what you do differently, salespeople make it more likely that their contacts will view them as a commodity. When all things are equal, you cannot create a preference to buy from you.

Use your positioning statement early in the sales conversation. You want to frame the sales conversation around the idea in your positioning statement. It is more difficult to differentiate later in the sales process. You want to use the entire sales conversation to explain how you are different and how that helps your clients improve their results better than any of their alternatives.

You also want to use your positioning statement when you provide a presentation and a proposal, reminding your contacts about how your approach is different and why they should choose you and your company over your competitors.

Sales organizations that don't know who they are often try to be everything to everyone. They confuse their sales force, their prospective clients, and the market. You should know who you are and who you are not. Sales leaders who don't insist that the sales force sells in a way that is congruent with their true positioning will have a difficult time creating and winning the opportunities they need to reach their sales goals. Unless there is a significant change to your overall go-to-market strategy, your positioning statement shouldn't change.

If you are a leader, make certain your team knows how to position your differences. If you are a salesperson, make certain you have a position that allows you to create an advantage that helps you win deals.

Sales 2022
Post by Anthony Iannarino on December 27, 2022

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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