Differentiate to Win

You think your competition is tough?  Imagine going up against one of the strongest brands in America.  This is a brand that is loved by all.  When families think of taking a vacation, this is the first brand that comes to mind.

By now you’ve probably guessed Disney.

There is an old expression in B2B sales – “No one ever got fired for buying IBM”.  IBM had built such a strong reputation that their products were generally known as the safe choice for corporate buyers.  Disney enjoys that same quality reputation when looking for family vacations.

Now imagine you’re a salesperson for Universal – competing with Disney every single day.  You both have theme parks generally close to each other.  But you want the vacationers to come to your theme park, not Disney.

How do you compete?  Compare feature to feature?  Here’s how Universal differentiated and took ownership of a segment.  They created a TV commercial: “Kids grow up.  So do vacations.” Brilliant and game changing.

We’ve all been to a Disney park or taken our kids there.  It’s great for a 7 year old, but the experience is different for a 18 year old.  Universal recognized this and differentiated themselves by having families think different about vacations.  Rather than pursuing families with younger children, they focused on families with teenagers.  They are targeting the markets where they can win instead of trying to sell to everyone.

Successful startups and early stage companies are masters of this one skill:  Helping their customers think differently about the solutions they offer.

Universal’s sales differentiation strategy teaches us a couple of things:

  1. Focus on the deals you are positioned to win – know the deals where you are a good fit and equally know the deals where you are not as well aligned.  You know your product/solution better than anyone.  Rank your prospects and pipeline.  Time is your most important asset.  Invest that time on the deals with a high probability of winning and avoid wasting your time on the low probability opportunities.

  2. Why are you different – think about this for a bit.  Know, really know, what your differentiators are and why that matters to your buyer.  What can you do that your competitors can’t?  Yes, you’ve developed a better product than everyone else, but now you must answer your prospect’s question, “What’s in it for me?”  Once you’ve identified those strategic differentiators, develop a communication strategy to articulate those differences in truly meaningful ways to your buyers.

Thinking through differentiation takes focus.  Avoid the temptation of those things that sound different but aren’t.  By truly understanding the many ways that your company/product/solution are different you will be in a better position to thrive in a very unforgiving and competitive world.  If you’ll pardon the pun, that can make the difference in your business.