Frequently companies ask me to help them create ways to differentiate themselves and their products from competitors. This strategy pays off big because with clear differences, they can sell based on value instead of price. Rarely can a company really come up with real differentiators–they can’t see the trees for the forest.
You don’t know your differentiators until your customers tell you what they are. And those differentiators will change over time.
Let me share with you some of the secrets of how you can do this on your own.
Discover Your Strengths
Start by asking your happiest customers why they buy from you. Take them out for a meal and interview them about their reasons for choosing you instead of the competitors. Ask them,
- “Why do you buy from me?”
- “What makes you the happiest about our company?”
- “What would cause you to buy from another vendor?”
Take notes and prepare to be amazed at the answers you get. You may wish to take an audio recorder (or use your smartphone’s recording function) and ask to record the conversation for audio testimonials on your Web site.
Discover Your Competitor’s Strengths and Your Weaknesses
Phone customers who have defected to your competitor to find out why they left. You might think that it’s difficult to get a former customer’s attention, but they’ll give you a few minutes if you tell them, “I really want to know what happened so that I won’t make the same mistake again.”
When they agree, ask
- “What was it we did or didn’t do that caused you to leave?”
- “What did the competitors do or not do that caused you to switch?”
- “What could I do differently to win you back?”
Even if you don’t get their business back, you’ll discover important information about the competition’s strengths that you can counter with your own strengths.
Discover Your Competitor’s Weaknesses
Interview customers that you’ve won away from the competition. Ask them,
- “Why did you choose me over the competition?”
- “What did the competitor do or not do that made you change your mind?”
- “What did I do that made the difference?”
Position Yourself with Your Customer’s Words
Now you have everything you need to present real, powerful differentiators to prospects. Bring them up early in the conversation to defuse the competitor’s position before your prospect brings them up. You can present them with real power if you frame them with the phrase, “My customers tell me that they choose me because…”
Continuously Schedule Customer Interviews
Make a point of repeating this process regularly so that you’re operating with the latest reasons, because your competition probably isn’t sitting still. It’s also a great reason to contact customers and lost customers as part of your regular sales activities.