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Competitive Differentiation: What you need to know

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 4/12/22 7:12 AM

Standing out in a sea of samenessTrying to keep up with competitive differentiation is becoming far more extremely complex in today's market.

Who doesn’t have excellent customer service? Or an all-in-one solution? Or an AI-enabled widget? 

Yada, yada, yada.

We have been told for some time now to focus on benefits and not features. So we talked about business growth, or time and cost-saving efficiencies.

Blah, blah, blah.

How is that working out for you? 

Do I need to pull out some ugly sales attainment stats?
Nah, I didn’t think so.

Because nearly all the sellers and managers I am coaching right now are dealing with some version of differentiation in a highly competitive market. Moreover, survey data backs this up...  With reporting that up to 88% of companies stated that their competition offers similar capabilities.

There really isn’t much new under the sun is there?

So how do you stand out in a sea of sameness?

To find out what type of messaging truly works best, I turned to B2B Decision Labs, who tested 400 B2B buyers on 4 different types of messaging.

First, they tested a features-based message framework. This is where you list capabilities that solve a buyer’s challenge or problem. It sounds something like:

“When you work with Unbound Growth and use our sales hiring services, you’ll access our sales-specific database of over 2 million sales professionals evaluated. We also provide a fast and efficient onboarding process designed specifically for new hires, powered by our sales-specific behavioral program. Not only that, Unbound Growth has training and coaching programs used by hundreds of sellers and managers. We have all the services that any sales leaders would want or need from a sales training company.”

Second, there is benefits messaging which describe the benefits of each capability so buyers understand what each feature can do for them. This might go like this:

“When you work with Unbound Growth and use our sales hiring services, you can fill your empty sales teams while ensuring you have the best-fit candidates. Thanks to the largest sales-specific database in the world, you will save time and resources in hiring the best candidates. Once they’re hired, you’ll be able to onboard and ramp them in weeks, not months. Plus, Unbound Growth’s science-based training and coaching programs mean you can scale your sales teams faster and better.”

The third type of messaging is called superlatives. This is where you use terms like all-in-one, streamlines, or integrated. I call this corporate-speak, blah blah blah, yada yada yada.

“When you work with Unbound Growth you get a one-stop-shop for all your sales recruiting and onboarding and training needs. We have an integrated and streamlined training program and sales behavior database to hire the highest quality sellers and managers. With Unbound Growth’s streamlined onboarding and ongoing training program, you’ll be able to bring sellers up to speed instantaneously. And with a
comprehensive on demand training program, you can scale your business with us."

The last type of messaging is called telling details. This is very specific to the business problem, how the capability solves it, and the value of that. Because it is so detailed, it is much longer. It goes like this:

“When you work with Unbound Growth, you can fill empty seats on your sales team without compromising quality and fit. With our 2 million+ database of sellers evaluated specifically for sales, you can recruit the best fit sellers and reduce or eliminate attrition rates on your sales teams. Unbound Growth trainers and coaches walk you through each step of the hiring process to establish your specific qualifications and preferences, even when the job market is tough.

That means you can quickly apply your role criteria to qualified and interested sellers and sales leaders who are the best-qualified fit according to data of 2 million sales professionals. Once hired, you’ll onboard sellers in weeks instead of months because our trainers will lead your team through a repeatable and scalable onboarding process.

This reduces your risk of attrition, as every hire recommended but doesn’t work out will be replaced at no charge. And our unmatched 91% success rate for new hires means you can more predictably scale your sales team from 5 to 50 and increase your revenue from 10 million to 100 million.”

Can you guess which type of messaging beats out all the others as preferred, credible, convincing --and most likely to buy from?

The "Telling Details" won out. By a lot across all the variables. Here’s why.

  • First, it was buyer first focused and used language like “you can” and “that means” to frame capabilities. That makes it all about the buyer, not your features and benefits.
  • Second, it was specific and quantifiable which helps to make the capability more credible. 
  • And finally, because this messaging was both buyer-focused, specific, and quantifiable, 91% of buyers tested said it was more valuable to them.

The devil is in the details- this is what makes the vision of success more believable- because it is specific.

And yeah I know- that means it takes time. It also means that you have to be very good at actively listening and asking good clarifying questions. Because without that, how could you possibly know what details matter? Don’t add more words for the hell of it. Have a point...and a point that matters to your buyers. If the additional information doesn’t add clarity then you are superlatively wee-weeing all over the place.

Specifics are memorable because they mobilize the brain according to Dr. Carmen Simon, Cognitive Neuroscientist, at B2B Decision Labs. When you carefully choose the telling details, you attract more attention and ignite people’s senses, which leads to stronger and more precise memories.

Think about your favorite memories.

You can likely recall a smell, an image, a sound- the more details you remember, the more real the memory is to you.

Now think about what happens when you share that memory with others who were there, and how they add their details to it.

This is the opportunity you have to create connections between you and your buyers. This is yet another way to sell with your buyers, not to them.

Selling is harder today than it was a few years ago. And competitive differentiation is only going to get even more difficult in our digital world. That is unless you leverage the decision science of how we make our buying decisions today and the behavioral science behind how we shift our mindsets and adopt new behaviors.

You can make solid competitive differentiation decisions that are based on data and science, not guesswork and assumptions.

What questions come to mind when you think about the results of this research? How will you apply it to your day-to-day messaging? Comment below and share this with your team and colleagues.

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Relevant links:

The art and science of layered sales questions

Topics: sales performance, sales coach, sales mindsets, sales leadership, Competitive Differentiation