Examples of Real Differentiation with Impact, Not Platitudes

Differentiation makes you stand out

“Many companies get so distracted by their search for the wow factor that they take their eye off the ball,” writes Joe Calloway in his best-selling book, Becoming a Category of One . That “ball” is the foundational elements of your business that create your differentiation.

Calloway’s prescription is appealing, but ultimately falls short of the mark. The type of differentiation Calloway prescribes is too easily duplicated to provide lasting results. Calloway makes several important points…

“In the quest for some unique, jaw-dropping factor that will lift them above the competition… many sellers wind up overlooking the basics. Do what you do, extremely well, every single time, with every customer. Relentless, attention-getting, differentiating consistency of performance.”

“Companies that do what they do extremely well every time, with every customer, are exceptionally rare.”

“The great challenge for any company of much size is to deliver quality and service consistently. And therein lies your potential differentiator – consistency.”

Finally, Calloway’s focus leads him astray.

To see for yourself, Calloway suggests you take note of businesses that favorably impress you. What impresses you and why do you come back? If you are like most people, your list will include such basics as “easy to do business with,” “employees always help me find just the right item,” “can get in and out quickly,” “always on time,” and more. Doctor Calloway prescribes focusing on one of these and being really good at it.

Differentiation Comes from Impact, Not Platitudes

Calloway reaches for the brass ring, only to have it slip through his fingers. Like so many before him he succumbs to seller-centric thinking. Sellers think about what they do rather than focusing on the impact those actions have on the customer. This is mainstream thinking, so it’s a missed opportunity rather than bad advice.

Too many sellers think about what they do rather than the impact on the customer. Click To Tweet

Not convinced? Let me review Calloway’s list of differentiators one-by-one. Each is a generic platitude that can be claimed by many companies. If everyone can say it, it’s not a real differentiator. Real differentiators talk powerfully to impacts that are personal and meaningful to the customer.

  • “Easy to do business with.”  What does this mean? It could be that the seller goes to lengths to clearly explain the tasks, that the seller comes to the customer, or many other possibilities. It’s easy for other companies to say they are easy to do business with. It’s much harder to duplicate a specific impact–especially if they are like most companies and resist focusing on doing a few things really well. Calloway’s enthusiasm for being consistent is on the mark–as long as the consistncy is around the impact
  • “Employees always help me find the right item.”  Of course they do. So what? Employees that help me locate the product I’m looking for are useful. However, employees that are skilled at discerning what I really need as opposed to what I think I need, or even stop me from buying a product that won’t solve my issue, are the source of undying loyalty.
  • “Can get in and out quickly.”  This can have opposite meanings to different people. If I know what I want, I don’t want to be slowed down by pesky sales reps. On the other hand, perhaps the impact on me is that my time is respected and interactions are optimized rather than short-cutted.
  • “Always on time.”  I expect you to be on time, so this promise doesn’t add value in my eyes. However, if it were rephrased to emphasize how much your company understands and respects how busy my life is and the domino effect of your missing an appointment cascades across the rest of my life, I immediately take notice.

Now, repeat Calloway’s exercise by noting how the businesses you deal with talk about why you should choose them. While most will sound like Calloway’s examples, the few that speak of impact will really stand out. It seems so clear, and yet remains rare.

Why is that?

[H/T to Heather Baldwin at Sellingpower.com for inspiring this post.]

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