Stu Schlackman

The Relationship Selling Expert - Building High-Performance Teams

What’s Your Competitive Advantage?





Why should I buy from you instead of a competitor? What makes your company different?

These are very common questions that many prospects ask. The typical responses are: “Our service is the best in the industry",  "We have great technology",  "We’re state of the art when it comes to innovation”, etc.

To which many customers will reply, “so what?”

They hear these lines from sellers every day. They aren’t an advantage and they certainly aren’t a unique selling proposition, another name for competitive advantage.

You must know what sets you apart from your competition. When you can articulate, and quantify specific advantages, you’re much more likely to move the sale along.

It’s just that simple, right? Well, not really.

To differentiate yourself in the market today takes deep product and industry knowledge and a great deal of focus. The value you provide must stand out compared to your competition and it must be quantifiable. You can’t just say we have great service or innovation. Saying it doesn’t make it so.

Customers want to know the specifics on what makes you better than everyone else. They want to hear the benefits of doing business with you, not just empty features. And by the way, in case you’re wondering, price is not a competitive advantage unless you’re Walmart.

And even Walmart is getting more competition these days. Cost may be an advantage for you but not for long. Someone will always come along to undercut your price. Just look at Spirit Airlines as they compete entirely on cost against Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines.
 
Value is what sets you apart. If you can’t price your value, the customer only sees the cost. Which is also how they see your competitors when they make the same claims that you do on service, performance, customer satisfaction and innovation. Your value is what makes you different.
 
Most importantly though, your advantages must be objective, tangible and measurable. If you say that you offer the best service, you better have some customer satisfaction scores (from an outside source) to validate your claim. Fastest turn-around time? Again, better have some data to back it up.

Your competitive advantage is something that others cannot claim. It’s owned by you. Some examples of competitive advantages are:
  • We have zero downtime on our systems.
  • Our customer retention rate is 99%.
  • Our average response time is less than 1 hour to be on-site.
  • Our failure rate is less than 1%.
  • We do business with 95% of the Fortune 50 companies.
  • Our market share is 84%.

If you notice each of these advantages are specific and measurable. Yet, you also need to offer a source for your stats. Otherwise they run the risk of creating doubt.

It can be easy for customers to comprehend and measure you against your competition. Your competitive advantage should help your customers achieve their goals or meet their needs. When you demonstrate how they can save money, make money, increase their market share or improve their service, you build trust and credibility.

The bottom line is your prospects and customers want to be able to measure results. If you can give them sound, data-driven reasons that truly meet their needs, you will be making it very difficult for them to say no.
This very thing happened to me a few years ago.

A bank in Dallas asked me to open an account. Already having two bank accounts, I told them I was fine. But, then I asked, “What makes you different from all the other banks in town?”

They explained that I wouldn’t have to drive in to make a deposit. All I had to do was mail the check in, enter the deposit on my computer and the check would clear that second. I then asked if it was a large amount would it take the three to five business days to clear? The answer was no. No matter how large the check was it all cleared the time it was entered. They trusted me! 

That was a competitive advantage that I hadn’t seen before. I opened the bank account with them based simply on that one unique advantage. Like most entrepreneurs, I value my cashflow.

So, stop now and brainstorm with your team what competitive advantages you offer. I assure you that it will make a difference – now, in the coming New Year, and forever!

Good selling and have a prosperous New Year!

Stu


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