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The best customer service. Quality. People. Knowledge. Innovation. Trusted relationships.
These are among the most common responses to a question a speaker at the Association for Hose and Accessories Distribution asked today in Las Vegas at the association’s annual convention: What is your No. 1 competitive advantage?
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The problem: When you answer with the above, you end up sounding like everybody else. “So what’s the tie-breaker?” Jaynie Smith, founder and CEO of Smart Advantage and author of Relevant Selling, asked. “Price. This is how we paint ourselves into a commodity corner.”
First, make sure you understand what your true competitive advantage is. Oftentimes, companies think they know what customers value – but customers actually value something else entirely. In fact, in one study, Smith says, more than 90 percent of companies were wrong about what they thought was important to their customers. “A differentiator is not a competitive advantage unless it is relevant (to customers),” Smith says.
Next, understand how to communicate what makes you different. Differentiators should be:
- Objective, not subjective. When you say your offer “quality,” your definition of quality may be different from your prospective customers’.
- Quantifiable, not arbitrary. Rather than saying “on time,” provide actual statistics that prove that you have an on-time record.
- Can’t be claimed by the competition. If you're both saying it, it loses its power. (On the other hand, if the competition isn't saying it, you have the opportunity to use it to differentiate your company in your messaging.)
- Must be true – or provable.
Focus on past tense – not on promises. Say you have done something, and provide the data that proves it, Smith says. “Past performance is the best indicator of future performance.”