At a recent sales seminar, a group of sales reps from a B2B company were asked to stand up and answer the simple question: “Why should we do business with you?” Their responses went something like this:
“We have the best consultants.”
“We have the most comprehensive, diverse solution.”
“We have the best service.”
By the fourth rep, there wasn't much to add. It was difficult to watch, but they're not alone. Many B2B companies struggle with how to articulate what makes them different or – in other words – their competitive advantage.
Creating Competitive Advantage by Jaynie L. Smith is a fantastic book that provides a framework for developing competitive advantage. As Smith defines it, competitive advantage is about separating yourself from the herd, defining and articulating why you are in business and why a prospect should choose you over a competitor.
Many of today’s B2B marketing messages are vague or generic. If you ask a company or sales rep to describe their competitive advantage, they will likely choose from the following list of attributes:
- Good customer service
- Good results
- Our employees
- Knowledgeable staff
- Consistent management
These attributes are so common that they've lost their edge. They mean little or nothing to clients and prospects.
As Smith argues, competitive advantage statements must be specific, quantifiable, and objective. And of course, they can’t be claimed by the competition.
Below are a few examples of how to breathe new life into competitive advantage statements.
Before: We have excellent customer service.
After: We return all calls to customer service within one hour of being received and can have a technician at your location within six hours.
Before: We have the best quality.
After: Last year, less than half of 1% of our customers returned one of our products.
Before: We are very reputable in the industry.
After: Our firm has won more awards than any other design firm in the industry.
The key is to create a list of potential competitive advantages, and then validate them with your target markets. When competitive advantage is defined, it provides the company and its employees with a solid set of messages that allow everyone to speak the same language, better understand how you compete, and – more importantly – strategically defend why you are in business and why prospects and customers should choose you.
In a future blog post, I’ll share guidelines on how to develop competitive advantage within your B2B company.
Did you find this blog helpful? Click to receive the blog via email.
Looking for more help to make marketing work in your B2B company? Get proven tips in PROFITGUIDE’s Special Report on The Radical Sales Shift.