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Five Ways To Create A Meaningful Competitive Advantage

July 22, 2015


In today’s marketplace, developing and maintaining an objective advantage over the competition can seem challenging. Why?– Customers tend to perceive competitive products and services as basically the same. Unless you have a product or feature that is obviously and significantly better than your competition, the customer will view you just like everyone else in your industry. Add to this the fact that a prospective customer can find a tremendous amount of information about you and your competition on the Internet. This allows the prospect to develop an opinion before ever speaking with a salesperson. In the majority of cases, the human mind categorizes competitive products/services in terms of their similarity and familiarity. It often sounds like this: “Oh yeah, this is just like that.”

Unless you have a distinct advantage customers are aware of and care about, you may wish to consider creating a competitive advantage that goes beyond your product or service – a value added advantage. Demonstrating your value added competitive advantage during the sales process can be difficult. Traditionally, the emphasis of competitive advantage has been excellent service. The only way for a prospect to experience your service is to actually become a customer. To get a prospect to become a customer, you have to be able to positively differentiate your company’s service from the competition during the sales process. Therefore, to maximize your sales, your revenue, and your profit potential, consider turning your sales process into your competitive advantage. In other words, the way you sell can be executed in such a way that the prospect believes you are positively different from the competition.

Companies who have turned their sales process into a competitive advantage leverage every point of contact opportunity with prospects and customers. Point of contact opportunities occur any time a representative of your company comes in contact with a prospect or customer. The way in which the representative interacts with the prospect or customer is going to form the strongest opinion of you and your organization. To paraphrase Maya Angelou: Prospects may not remember what you say. Prospects may not remember what you do. Prospects always remember how you make them feel. Essentially, it all comes down to how the prospect or customer feels after an interaction with you or a representative of your company. If your sales process leaves your prospect or customer feeling better with you than anyone else, you will have a meaningful advantage. To accomplish this, consider the following:

1. Make the Prospect/Customer Feel You Understand Their Critical Issues. 

At every point of contact, you must make your prospect or customer feel listened to and understood. But, all organizations strive for that. Therefor, the usual techniques have lost their impact. Almost every sales person has been taught to ask open-ended questions and use active listening techniques, such as summarizing the customer’s question or concern. As a result, when you talk to a salesperson, you can usually hear him or her using the techniques on you. But, when everyone is doing it, there’s no competitive advantage.

Consider going beyond the usual techniques to effectively rise above the competition. Rather than asking the same old surface questions and parroting back answers, ask questions to awaken a new perspective in the mind of your prospect or customer. Helping your prospects and customers see their issues in new ways makes you stand out. When your customers and prospects feel you truly understand their issues and challenges, they will see more value in your products and services.

2. Identify Their Unseen Problems

Beyond dealing with the obvious needs, help customers and prospects identify potential problems they didn’t even realize they had. You will put yourself light-years ahead of the competition. Most companies approach their prospects and customers with a fly-by assessment of their current needs. They miss the underlying problems that the prospect doesn’t know how to solve or doesn’t realize exist. Only about one in ten prospects in any industry, at any given time, has a felt need for your product or service. The key to maximizing your results is to leverage the other 90%! You can do this by identifying hidden opportunities.

The key to identifying your customers’ and prospects’ unseen issues is to do more development work. Take your point of contact opportunities to the next level and look for symptoms your prospects and customers experience, but can’t find the cause. If you can engage your prospects and customers at that level, you jump ahead of the competition. The key is to ask the right questions to gain deeper insights into the hidden issues. Help the customer or prospect to realize how those issues impact their business and life.

3. Demonstrate Your Added Value

Every time someone from your organization interacts with a prospect or customer, you want the prospect or customer to believe they received some value from the experience. Consider doing whatever you can to establish yourself as a thought leader. Demonstrate a deeper understanding of your prospects’ and customers’ critical issues. Bring new ideas and information that specifically pertain to those issues.

For example, if you’re a salesperson, make sure that every time you meet with a customer or prospect, bring some information your prospect or customer will find helpful. Strive to demonstrate your value added by helping your prospects and customers gain new insights into the issues that challenge them in their business.

4. Be Consistent in Your Customer and Prospect Contact

When you don’t establish consistent positive contact with your customers and prospects, you lose opportunities to create and maintain your competitive advantage. Many salespeople do everything right to sign a new customer. They follow-up regularly, address concerns, and answer all the questions. But, once the sale is made, they don’t maintain contact and virtually drop off the planet. This inconsistency is a common occurrence, both on the prospecting and customer service sides of sales. If you maintain consistent, value-added contact, that in itself creates a competitive advantage. You’re doing something few others do.

In the prospecting phase, the value-added might come from a different spin on your approach. For example, instead of calling a prospect and saying, “I’d like to talk with you about the services I offer,” you can say, “I’d like to talk to you about the ways we’ve solved the issues businesses like yours face.” Then be as specific as possible with the issues they are likely facing.

In the customer service phase, a way to add value is to meet with customers on a regular basis to check in and explore new challenges you may be able to help with or send an article you saw on trends in their industry, or by recommending a book they may find useful. By using a consistent value-added approach, you establish yourself as being positively different.

5. Make All Of Your Resources Available To The Customer

Once you’ve done all the development work and you’ve brought someone in as a customer, consider continuing to offer added value. Many times companies focus solely on the prospecting phase and lose repeat business as a result. But after you make the initial sale, the more you can make available the full resources of your organization to the customer as a solution to their critical issues, the more valuable you are to the customer. Introduce customers to your full line of solutions and make additional information readily available. By presenting your full line of resources to your customers, they will continue to see the added value in your company.

To maintain a meaningful competitive advantage, you must create a value-added perception by leveraging your points of contact. Remember, you have to do what your competition isn’t doing. People will only see you as positively different if they believe they get something they want from you that they can’t get anywhere else.

The steps above are important in selling to prospects, and equally important when you’re trying to expand your relationship with them. When you use these techniques to demonstrate your value added, you won’t have to lower your price to maintain your competitive advantage. Customers and prospects will be willing to pay more for your products and services because they’ll know you’re more valuable than everyone else in the market.

To see if Bill can help you to take more control over the future of your sales by turning your sales process into your competitive advantage click here.

Watch this short video to see how you may be able to be more in control of your future sales and profits:

About the Author

Bill Gager is a consultant, speaker, and coach. Bill works with some of the world’s top corporations to leverage the power of their potential to maximize their sales and profits.

For the first time, Bill is making his Sales Acceleration Solutions available to the small and medium sized business segment as well as Fortune 500 Corporations. Click here to contact Bill.

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