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Unique vs. Distinct: What Really Matters for Differentiation in B2B Sales

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Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

In this quick video, RAIN Group President Mike Schultz discusses the difference between being unique versus being distinct from the buyer's perspective.

When people talk about differentiation, the word they most associate with it is 'unique.'

Now, the word 'unique' is fraught with problems and danger.

The first reason is because what people say is unique often isn't actually unique. In fact, it comes across as pretty common.

For example, one company might say, "What makes us unique is our depth of experience. We only have people with 20 years of experience working on our projects."

Or another company might say, "Well, our technology is customized specifically for your industry."

Even another company might say, "Our level of customer service is truly the best in the industry."

Oftentimes, these things are valuable, but the definition of the word 'unique' is being without equal.

What? No one else has excellent customer service? No one else has experienced professionals working on projects? No one else has technology focused specifically on the industry?

These things aren't unique.

Again, they might be worthwhile, but they’re not the only ones doing these things.

Second, things that are actually unique often aren't actually valuable or worthwhile. Being the first, being the only, or being the biggest one in a particular industry is often novel, but no one really cares.

There are 2 parts of differentiation: overall distinction and the perception of scarcity.

What sets most businesses apart in a meaningful way usually isn't just one thing. It's a mix of things that creates an overall distinction in a buyer’s mind. Overall distinction tends to be a collection of factors that makes you stand out from the rest.

It's usually more plausible–and more meaningful–to say something like this: "Well, our clients tell us that three things tend to stand out for them as to why we're different. First, we do focus specifically on their industry. Second, few companies like ours have the kind of R&D efforts producing the innovations that we tend to produce on a regular basis. And third, our commitment to yada, yada, yada, whatever-it-is might be a common commitment, but few companies really pull it off like we do."

So when you're thinking about communicating your differentiation, it's often best to focus on the overall distinction versus one particular thing that might be truly unique.

Topics: Sales Conversations