One of the top challenges that many sales professionals face is differentiating themselves from the competition. Generally speaking, if you are unprepared when performing your initial customer outreach, you will only convince a customer that you offer a similar product/service for about the same price as your competitors. Your prospects might already be receiving something similar from a competitor and/or:

  • be happy with what they have
  • consider sales outreach a waste of time and an interruption to their daily business
  • be unhappy with their current product/service, but have already come to the conclusion that you can’t offer them anything better.

To convince a potential customer to select you over your competition, you need to identify what currently makes you uniquely attractive and where you can focus attention to further add value.

As we’ve already addressed, price is not the way for you to differentiate yourself during this initial phase as your pitch could sound very similar to your competitors without that being your intention. Shawn Porat, CEO of Fortune Cookie Advertising, said it best in Fast Company: “what really counts is not how unique you are but how unique people think you are”. Look at the five areas below to help you discover aspects where you can differentiate yourself and build a picture of the value you bring to your customers.

  1. You are the first unique factor

One way to separate from the pack is by looking at yourself. You are in sales and so it is without question that you are a motivated, goal-oriented, problem solver. Use your unique gifts to differentiate yourself.

Debra Murphy from Masterful Marketing has a great exercise to get you started. Answering the below questions is a good first step in determining your strengths as perceived by your customers:

  • “What do your clients really appreciate about your service?”
  • “Why are long-term clients still with you?”
  • “What was one of the nicest things a client ever said about how you conduct business?”

Combine your unique strengths with the below four core practices for a one-two punch that will put you on top.

  1. A value-added approach

It is common for sales professionals to form the habit of looking at sales as a momentary, transactional business dealing. This forces the individual to focus on sales acquisition and sales funnels rather than on customers. These individuals want to close a deal as fast as possible and move on to the next opportunity.

By following a value-added selling approach, you focus on the customer and on maximizing the value you bring to the table. You have taken the time either with the current prospect or with similar businesses in the past to understand the exact needs of the prospective customer as they relate to your solutions. As a result, your solutions speak specifically to the customer and are not the standard marketing materials. You also are present through the entire life cycle of the product: customer education and acquisition through to support and satisfaction.

Learn more about how you can create a value-added approach by reading our post titled Value-Added Selling: How To Transform Your Sales Process To Achieve Greater Success.

  1. Convenience

Make the sales cycle as convenient for the customer as possible. I don’t have to point out that we live in a fast-paced world and decision makers are constantly feeling this pressure when splitting time between their customer-focused daily business and their operations. Do whatever it takes to make learning about and moving through your sales cycle as easy as possible. Leverage digital tools or arrange for face-to-face meetings. Use the methods that are preferred by the prospect. The more painless you make this process for them, the more likely they’ll continue using you in the future.

  1. Trust

Customers are careful where they spend their money. They rely on reviews and recommendations more so now than ever. By becoming a trusted source for your service, your reputation will influence their decisions. You can accomplish this with reviews, but as an independent sales professional, referrals are the more likely source for review based recommendations. Expand your sales funnel by cultivating new leads from your existing and happy customer base.

  1. Narrow your target market

Being able to understand a prospective customer’s needs and building yourself up as an expert in a field can more easily be attained by focusing on a smaller portion of a market. Rather than working with all types of businesses, narrowing your target to accounting firms, for example, will allow you to specialize in a niche. You will more thoroughly understand the unique pain points in this industry and as a result of your newly developed track record, gain credibility when reaching out to future prospects in this domain.

Standing out in the present day can seem almost impossible at first glance, but one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the competition is through a customer-centric approach. By treating each customer as if they were your top priority, you will find that your sales funnel will organically grow, your status as an expert will solidify, and your current customers will stay with you longer. Most people don’t think to put in the extra work or don’t want to put in that effort. There’s always room at the top and your willingness to go the extra mile will place you in the company of the few rather than the many.

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