Every company has a competitive advantage. Having a clear picture of what that competitive advantage, or Unique Selling Proposition (USP), is and being able to communicate it clearly and effectively to prospects, however, is sometimes another story. From defining and clarifying your USP to educating your marketing and sales teams and identifying the most effective way to communicate your competitive advantage to prospects, the following best practices provide a practical guide for communicating your competitive advantage to leads, prospects, partners, and customers.
Defining Your Competitive Advantage
It’s likely that there are a multitude of ways your company can serve your ideal customer better than your competitors. The key to defining your competitive advantage is to understand how your company is uniquely qualified to serve the needs of your target customer.
“I’ve seen countless entrepreneurs defeat themselves in the way they describe their business to others. They can’t capture the essence of their business for other people and keep butchering the pitch with heavy jargon, minutiae and blather,” says Dave Lerner, Director at Columbia University Entrepreneurship in an article on American Express OPEN Forum. The problem, Lerner says, is “Lack of clarity. If you can't explain your business with crystal clarity, no one will.”
For enterprise sales teams, this can be particularly challenging even if the company itself has a clear vision and succinctly defined competitive advantage: how well are your sales reps communicating this information to target prospects? Dig a little deeper, and you might find that your sales reps aren’t communicating your company’s competitive advantage in a way that matters to your key prospects.
Target the Right Customers
The fact is that your company’s distinct competitive advantage will matter less to some customers than others, but your company may have other advantages that are more relevant to certain prospects. That’s why it’s critically important to have an effective system for filtering and qualifying leads and to employ methods that help your marketing and sales teams present the right information, including key competitive advantages, for specific marketing and sales situations.
Tom Searcy, Founder of Hunt Big Sales, challenges the very premise of a competitive advantage in an article for Inc.com. “Don't define your competitive advantage by your competitors. Define your distinction by your customers,” Searcy suggests. That means defining a very specific target customer for who there are no competitors to consider; your company is hands-down the best and only choice. Searcy recommends building a customer-driven statement of your advantage, rather than a competitive one, using these three simple steps:
1. Define your ideal target customer (the “hands-down home run” customer).
2. Define the problem for which your company is perfectly positioned to offer the ideal solution.
3. Declare your market by creating a highly specific description of what it is that you offer these ideal customers.
Avoid Negative Talk about Your Competition
When communicating your competitive advantage to prospects, the last thing you want to do is come across as though you’re criticizing your competition. That said, you still want to clearly convey what it is that makes your company uniquely qualified to meet the customer’s needs above all other options in the market.
This is easily achieved by carefully choosing language that presents the advantages your company offers in terms that focus first on the customer and, secondarily, your company. Don’t directly discuss the fact that Competitor A and Competitor Z don’t offer free, 24/7 customer support. Instead, you might say that “We’re the only company offering our valued customers free, unlimited access to customer support services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Taking It to the Next Level: Communicating Your Competitive Advantage within Customer Context
What would make this example even better is positioning the same offering not as a benefit offered by your company, but a benefit that solves the customer’s unique challenges. For example, “The next time you discover an outage at 3 a.m., you don’t have to stay up all night trying to get back up and running with no support. We’re the only provider offering free, unlimited customer support with a team always standing by to help you work through critical issues, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
In this second example, the competitive advantage is clearly conveyed to the customer, avoids negative talk about competitors, and explains how the company can solve challenges previously encountered by the prospect in working with other vendors. This is really Sales 101. Your customers don’t really care about you, they may not care how long you’ve been in business or how many awards you’ve won. These basic facts can serve as proof that you’re qualified, but what your customers really care about is how your company can make their lives better: how you can save them time, reduce their costs, improve access, or help them meet their own goals.
Train your sales teams to employ this simple shift in thinking. Clearly define your competitive advantage, target the right customers with the right messages, avoid negative comparisons, and communicate your distinct advantages within the context of how they benefit each individual prospect, and you’ve got a winning combination that will help your sales reps effectively communicate your competitive advantage and close more deals.
About the Author
Fergal Glynn is Docurated’s VP of Marketing. Docurated accelerates sales in companies looking for fast growth by making the best marketing content readily available to Sales teams. Fergal helped produce Docurated's State of Sales Productivity Report, which examines key sales productivity trends and challenges facing sales and marketing executives. Fergal grew up in Ireland and now lives in Arlington, MA. To learn more about Docurated check out their Sales Enablement Tool on the AppExchange.
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