Product differentiation used to be a simple equation. The way your organization’s offering differed from the pack usually came down to features, specs, and customization. Your product alone was what set you apart from competitors.
That strategy was easy to manage when sales reps were in control of the majority of messaging. Now, as the consumer landscape evolves with an increasingly complex playing field of technology, consumer research, and an often non-linear sales funnel, differentiation has become more than product comparison.
Unfortunately, most companies aren’t catching on to the trend. Harvard Business Review reported that while 80% of executives believe their company’s products are differentiated, only 10% of their customers agree.
To help your sales reps understand this expanded idea of product differentiation, we’re exploring the new components of the equation.
The New Product Differentiation Equation
Despite changes in the differentiation equation, your actual product is still a key component because a high quality product makes promoting and selling much easier.
The product focused part of your strategy is about identifying differences in your product or service that will set you apart from other similarly available options. It also helps create a sense of value with your potential customers.
Narrowing down a few key features that make your product stand out helps focus your messaging and expedite the sales process. A prospect doesn’t need to understand every detail about how your product or service works before committing to buying, they just need to know why it works for them.
Consumer and competitor research are important steps in determining which features you should highlight. The research will help you uncover the most common consumer pain points and complaints while competitor research will show you how to distinguish your product and highlight the benefits.
Your product will always be an essential part of your differentiation strategy, but now it’s time to recognize that it’s not the only one.
Consumer expectations have evolved significantly, and to close the deal, more is needed. Customers want more support, higher levels of service, and a deeper trusting relationship with their brands.
This is all great news for your organization, as long as you are investing and focusing on these capabilities. Ask yourself:
- What are you doing for your customers on a consistent basis?
- Do you have repeatable activities or routines that help you serve your customers better than anyone else?
- What unwritten promises do you regularly make to your customers?
Companies that are excelling in the new differentiation landscape realize that what they offer goes far beyond their product. It comes down to service, customer expectations, and a level of trust that you can deliver what you promise on a consistent basis.
There are countless ways your company can differentiate their offerings beyond a product. Here are just a couple of focus areas some companies have selected:
- Cost/value ratio
- Product knowledge
- Production quality
- Employee expectations
- Distribution system
- Organizational structure
- Service speed or quality
- Environmental focus
Does your organization have any unique practices that fall within the categories above that help it deliver a better offering to your customers? If the answer is yes, the next step in strengthening your differentiation strategy is communicating that to your customers.
After you’ve identified what makes your product and non-product offerings stand out, you need determine the best way to get that information to current and potential clients.
Great messaging is about efficiency and consistency. Efficiency, because the first impression may be the only one your reps get, and consistency, because any sign of confusion will turns customers away.
74% of buyers go with the company that is first to add value. Messaging is crucial if you want to communicate value clearly and increase your chance of securing the new business.
The best way to achieve consistent messaging across your sales team is to use engaging online learning technology to certify their understanding, and test their knowledge. At LearnCore, our clients use mobile training solutions to distribute messaging content to sales reps, and assess their communication skills using our Pitch IQ software. You can even create a custom differentiation sales training certification program to ensure your reps are client ready.
Forget about a competitive landscape where differentiation is just about the product. Your organization needs to focus on building a solid strategy that combines your product, what sets your organization apart beyond your product, and effective messaging. Without this trifecta, it will be impossible to keep a competitive edge.
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