One Step Ahead. The newsletter for busy key account managers

How to Stand Out From The Competition (When Everyone’s the Same)

It’s important to stand out from the crowd if you want to attract and retain clients. But how do you differentiate from competitors when everyone is the same?

In honour of #worldletterwritingday I hand wrote the introduction to the show notes.

When clients say "price" they really mean value

"You're too expensive" or "I can get more, for less, somewhere else"

Ever heard that before?

That's because most businesses blend in, not stick out. Even when they do deliver something innovative, it's not for long. Competitors catch up fast.

So, it's up to you to figure out how to differentiate your solutions in this market of sameness. Give your client a reason to choose you over everyone else.

A single value proposition can’t appeal to all your clients. Give each client a customised combination of benefits and price that appeals to them. A differentiated value proposition is the first step of transforming ideas into results.

  1. Goal. What does your client want to achieve?
  2. Issue. What are the process, infrastructure or performance gaps that prevent achieving stated goals?
  3. Opportunity. Identify opportunities to close performance gaps.
  4. Key questions. What do you need to know? (pros, cons, assumptions, missing information etc.)
  5. Supporting data. Assemble and review the data to confirm assumptions and set targets and measurements.
  6. Answer key questions. Research your key questions. Consult internal sources, review benchmarks and collect data. Review the results and revise your objectives
  7. Proposed solutions. Identify improvement opportunities: incremental, breakthrough or game changing.
  8. Cost/benefit/risk assessment. Consider how much time, budget and resources you need to achieve outcomes. Does the return on investment provide significant benefits to make them worth pursuing? What are the risks? How will you avoid them and what will you do in worst-case scenario?
  9. Detailed recommendations. Provide your final recommendations and next steps.

Adapted from: Maximizing Value Propositions to Increase Project Success Rates

Remember: you don’t have to be the best. Your goal is to be the preferred.
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Steps to stand out from the competition

Your product's lack of features doesn't matter. Complaining creates bad energy and wastes time. Focus on what you have and how your client perceives working with you.

Everyone might have all the same stuff, but they don’t have you. And everyone doesn’t know your client as well as you do.

Here are some extra steps to maximise your differentiation through value.

  1. Find out the jobs to be done, issues and opportunities that are a priority for your client.
  2. Identify unresolved pains and unrealized gains.
  3. Focus on no more than three of these jobs, gains and pains. Those you know you can do something about and that have the highest potential payback.
  4. Go beyond functional needs and explore emotional/ease of doing business needs. For example decreased hassles, reduced effort, time savings, reduced risk, reduced anxiety.
  5. Target the metrics that matter and align with how your client measures success.
  6. Create a sales value chain. Explain to your client how your solution positively impacts
    1. business unit (cost centre level)
    2. departmental factors (functional level)
    3. corporate factors (organizational level)
  7. Find executive sponsors and gain their support for your ideas. You'll also improve visibility of your value and find to get things done.
  8. Find out how your client really uses your solutions. Who uses it, when do they use it, where do they use it and why do they use it? You may find different use cases than you expected.
  9. Document all your high potential ideas and share progress to management.
Differentiation won't come from competing on features. Instead, adapt your value proposition to each client to become truly unique to them.
hand writing

World Letter Writing Day

#WorldLetterWritingDay is September 1st.

Sadly, letter writing seems to be a lost art in the digital age we live in. Which is a shame. It's so nice to receive a personal letter, or a card. I even like to handwrite my journal and flick through to random pages and remember the past.

You can celebrate #WorldLetterWritingDay however you like. Just put pen to paper.

One way is to learn the correct method of writing a handwritten letter. Penmanship is a long-forgotten skill and it was favourite hobby of mine for the longest time.

So for practice, I hand-wrote the introduction to this newsletter (did you notice?

If you'd like to explore the topic, then download Palmer's Penmanship Budget: Containing a Complete Course of Instruction in the Most Practical and Popular System of Business Writing Now Extant. First published in 1919, this is a classic guide on the study of penmanship, from how to sit, how to hold your pen, alphabet drills and lots more.

It's fun to read just as a piece of early 20th century history.


Workshop: How to successfully execute a negotiation strategy

September 13. I've decided to host a workshop dedicated to negotiation, because it's an essential skill for all professionals. Get started on the right foot with a deep dive into your negotiation style, improve your persuasiveness, and build the skills to respond to conflict when it arises. 

Gain insight into win-win and hard-bargaining tactics and countertactics so that you and your client get your needs met.

Tickets are only £7 / $9 but One Step Ahead subscribers can get them for 30% off.

How to Stand Out From The Competition (When Everyone's the Same)

In other news

+ How to Add Customer Value for B2B in 3 Easy Steps. The simplest and fastest way I've found for adding customer value is by turning information into knowledge. This article explains how.

+ Bain B2B Elements of Value. What do B2B customers value? Bain has identified 40 elements of value across five categories that can help you improve your offering or create new ones. There are a lot of subjective and functional elements you can leverage to differentiate that won't cost anything.

+ How to Write a Meaningful Thank You Note. Everyone likes to be appreciated. Sending a thank you note makes people feel respected and improve their performance. As long as it's genuine - and informed. This article from HBR has lots of tips on how to write a thank you note and example scenarios deserving of recognition. So in the spirit of #worldletterwritingday - why not tell someone you appreciate them.

+ FutureMe. A free service where you can write a letter to yourself to be delivered sometime in the future. I use this regularly to give myself little motivational pep-talks, remind myself to make good decisions and forgive myself when I've made bad choices.

+ Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships. This book was written for professional services but equally useful to key account managers. It explains in great detail how to add value by transforming information into knowledge, helping clients make better decisions and enhancing processes.

Lots of great ideas that don't need a team of developers to implement. Just you and your clients. 

Note: The book is expensive if you buy it brand new. Look for a second hand copy which should be around $5 to $10.

How to Stand Out From The Competition (When Everyone's the Same)

Quote of the week

"Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value." ― Albert Einstein

Got an idea for The KAM Club podcast?

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Have a great week

Warwick Brown

Warwick Brown

Warwick Brown is one of the leading key account management experts in the world. Through The KAM Club, a global membership community for key account managers, his blog that reaches 20,000 people every month, and a range of training and coaching services, Warwick has helped thousands of key account managers get better results, faster.
Go here to read Warwick's story from key account manager to entrepreneur. If you want to send Warwick a quick message, visit his contact page here.

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