Do You Have a Key Differentiator?

How many residential real estate brokers are there in NYC? 30,000? How about financial advisors? Insurance agents and brokers? Lawyers? Bankers? IT companies? Business coaches? Marking firms? Accountants? Bakers? You get the gist. If you’re doing business here, there’s going to be stiff competition. (And I didn’t even include LI, Westchester, CT, or NJ.)

Competition always begs the question – what makes you different? Simple inquiry, much more difficult answer (for most). Those that do have a demonstrable advantage over other companies are the unicorns of their industries, but they are few. For the vast majority, it takes some creativity to convince a prospect you’re the best choice to handle their business.

First, what is a key differentiator (kd for short)? According to SMART Marketing, a key differentiator is the business attribute(s) and/or unique value that clearly separates it from the competition in a particular marketplace. A key differentiator should be unique, measurable, and defendable. If you go by the definition, then “we care about our customers” is not a kd. But, “we have a 99% retention rate” is a kd. “I go above expectations” is not; “our product was voted best in the industry four years in a row” is a good one.

In all honesty, not everyone has a kd, but everyone should work to develop one. What makes you different is a standard question for any provider, so why does it catch so many off guard? Your response to this question should be as natural and quick as when someone asks your name. To do that takes real thought about why you would buy your product/service over someone else’s. Then it’s a matter working out a cogent answer.

To develop a kd, you first look at your business as would a potential client. It’s very tough to separate yourself from your business, so seek out trusted resources who will provide you with honest constructive feedback on what you think are your kd’s. If they’re good resources, be prepared to have some holes bunched in your balloons because your business is never how you see it.

Next, take the key separators on which you settle and put them up against your competition. Can you see any of these attributes in your fellow providers? If so, then it’s not a kd for you (unless you’re first to market w/ it as a kd, but that’s for another posting). Different is the key word here. If your competition is orange, saying your red-orange isn’t going to do the trick.

Lastly, craft a response to the question that doesn’t take you any more than 20-30 seconds to deliver. Your kd is similar to your elevator pitch, but focused on how well you do something instead of what you do. This way you’re get your point across before your listener fades into inattentiveness.

A key differentiator isn’t optional. This should be a standard tool in your sales toolbox. Without it, you’re just another one of the crowd.

Sean O’Rourke
About Sean O’Rourke 242 Articles
Sean O’Rourke is a Cyber Liability Insurance (CLI) consultant for Combs & Company, a full service insurance brokerage firm headquartered in NYC. Sean works with small- and mid-sized businesses to mitigate the myriad of risks posed to their technology and data. Sean has worked in the technology arena for 20 years, so he has a unique approach when discussing the value of CLI to businesses. Sean can be reached at [email protected] or 646.736.3737.