In sales, you MUST be different from the competition

Last month I challenged you to make a list of everything that you claim about your company and product and service, that your competition does NOT claim they do or have. The result for most is a blank piece of paper.

I cliff-hanged you to come back for the “different” answers, and you won’t be disappointed–unless you aren’t willing to work a little and risk a little. In which case you’ll be disappointed and you may as well quit reading right now.

BUT, if your want an idea where you can begin the differentiation process between you and your competition, look no further than this list and your nose.

Now remember, we’re talking being different from the COMPETITION. The people you gotta beat day in and day out. The people you hate, or should hate.

If you lose to a lower price, that’s GREAT NEWS. It means no one has been able to build value or create a difference and the opportunity is ripe for you to step in and WIN BIG. Create the difference and build the value, and you can win a higher price. Cool.

Here are 15.5 “inside the box” actions you should change today. The test here is: Will what you do be talked about after the impression passes? Will anyone say “Hey look at this, you gotta see this!” or, “You gotta hear this!” If no one is saying anything, it’s a dud.

Be different in the comfort of your office:

1. Your voice mail message is dull. Sharpen it. Are you either on your phone or away from your desk? Are you telling people what day of the week it is? Is the message on your VM great or average? Get great.

2. Your office greeting and phone transfer. People friendly? Computer answering your phone and making your customer mad before he gets to you? Transferring people to voice mail hell? Offer options before you transfer a call.

3. After hours messaging. Is it fun? Does it page someone? Do you direct me to your Web site for action? Or does it just say, “We’re closed, duh.”

4. Your fax cover sheet. Fun, informative or dud? Worth showing to someone else?

5. Ease of ordering or doing business with you. Call your office and try to place an order. Try to get a salesperson. Try to get yourself. After hours ordering? (ouch)

6. Your office coffee. Your snacks and in-house food. Serve the best, not the cheapest.

Be different in your corporate communication:

7. The save-ability of your literature. Is your info all about you or is it information the prospect will keep because it’s valuable? Useful information gets passed around. All info about you finds its way into the trash.

8. Change your business card. Now. Fast. “I can’t,” you whine, “The company provides them this way.” Just print “SEE OTHER SIDE” on your card or change your title to something fun or compelling. Is your prospect showing it to someone else because it’s so cool? Get cool.

9. Are your ads bragging or proof? Advertising is great if you use testimonials to tell your story. Most people just brag about themselves. Pity.

10. The front page of your Web site. Is the information on it about the customer, or all about you? We-we Web sites get one visit. Creative sites attract word-of-mouth advertising and return visits (or the ultimate victory: “bookmarked”).

Catch fire in the heat of the sale:

11. Opening cold call line failing? Ask for the sales department instead of your normal “I’d like to speak to the person in charge of…” drivel. Salespeople will tell you everything, direct you to the right person, and help you open the door.

12. Change the opening of your sales presentation. Start with a series of questions and ideas. Don’t give your name or card until you have stimulated so much interest that the prospect says, “Who are you?”

13. Reverse the messages you leave for others. Ask questions about their issues, give two great facts and get them to call you for the third. Is the current message you leave for others all about them or about the money you want from them?

14. Follow-up after a sales call or a proposal submission with value, not insincerity. “I’m calling to see if you have any questions.” Whenever someone says that to me I ask them who won the world series in 1984. They rarely know, but always laugh. (Baltimore Orioles). Stop calling people to find out how your money is doing. Offer information that is valuable. Show them you have ideas and enthusiasm for THEIR stuff, not just yours.

15. How are you staying in front of a customer after (between) sales? How about an e-mailed tip of the week? Something that helps THEM.

Tell me (show me) you love me:

15.5 Customers want an initial feeling of warmth. What feeling do you give? How are calls answered at your place? If a computer answers your phone, everything I have said is worthless until you rip that device out of the wall. EVERYONE HATES when a computer answers the phone, and the trend is to return to the human “hello.” Your friendliness (or lack of it) will determine your future.

At the core of differentiation is the science of creativity, and your free time to brainstorm the possibilities–either alone or in a group of peers.

Free GitBit: Want the three biggest lost opportunities to differentiate and distinguish yourself from your competition? Go to and click Free Stuff, then click GitBit. Register (if you’re a first time user) and enter the secret word, DIFFERENT in the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of “The Sales Bible” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless.” President of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings, and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at 704-333-1112 or e-mail BN