It’s probably one of the simplest (and common) questions that we may be asked in business and yet also one of those questions that many business owners and their sales teams are unable to answer in a way that will credibly distinguish them from the competition.
This can be seen in advertising terms in what may be known as a ‘tombstone’ style advert. With this style of advert we generally find the name of the business at the top i.e. ‘John’s Plumbing Services’ who then may do a series of bullet point such as, ‘no job too big, no job too small’, ’24 hour callout, 7 days a week!’, ‘Free quotation available’, ‘Discount for O.A.P’s’ and ‘We won’t be beaten on price’ to name just a few. Take a look in the classified ads section of your local paper and you’ll regularly see this style of advertisement format: A generally uninspiring ‘me too’ advert – and when you are a ‘me too’ business then the primary tactic you have to compete on and win orders against your rivals is…price – as nobody can distinguish any other benefit of dealing with you other than ‘you’re the cheapest’.
Utilising ‘being the cheapest’ (by reducing margins) as a strategy to win business is a downward spiral for most business models as lower margins will require higher and higher volumes just to cover the overheads. What then tends to show up for a business that goes down this route are longer and longer hours, increased stress and frustration and lack of creativity to be able to see any way out. If other local competitor businesses also employ this strategy then it’s just a matter of time as to who runs out of cash first.
So how can we differentiate ourselves from our competition?
You may have heard the phrase ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ or ‘USP’ which in essence is nothing more than a way of adding value over and above your competitors to win an order rather than entering a price war. Whereas many business owners and their sales teams will groan when I introduce this as part of their ‘sales toolbox’ (i.e. they think ‘We know all about USP!’). The stark reality is that there is a huge difference between ‘knowing the theory’ and taking the time to implement and monitor the results.
The main principle of USP (and why it is an extremely effective way of increasing your margins and NOT competing on price) is remembering that 80% of buying is carried out emotionally (more by our ‘unconscious’ mind) and the remaining 20% is rationalised by ‘logic’).
The second principle of your USP is that it doesn’t need to be a long-winded statement – the shorter the better in fact.
Here’s a series of ides to help you craft your own USP as a tool to win more business:
- Convey a positive ‘feeling’ to your client (i.e. an emotional ‘buy in’)
- Keep it short and sweet – if it’s too longwinded people just won’t ‘get it’
- Give it impact and be focused on ‘value’ not ‘price’ (i.e. ‘erm…because we’re the cheapest!’ is a non-starter!)
- Keep your focus on the emotional side of what they will gain when they do business with you (‘features’, ‘benefits’ and ‘hidden benefits’)
- It must be congruent with who you are and how you will deliver your exceptional service
Finally, as with all things in business, practice, practice, practice. Be confident in delivering your message in delivering an exceptional product and / or service!