Peter Cohan: Differentiating Your Offers Starts With The First Contact

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, Events, skmurphy, Workshop

Another excerpt from Peter Cohan’s very insightful new article  “Stunningly Awful vs. Truly Terrific Competitive Differentiation – What, When, and How

From the customers’ perspective vendors are “differentiating”, positively or negatively, with every contact, every meeting, and every deliverable.  Let’s explore possible negative differentiation first.  How do you feel about:

  • Vendors that cold call you – repeatedly?
  • Vendors that take forever to answer your email inquiries – or ignore what you asked?
  • Vendors that leap right to showing you a “solution”, without sufficient Discovery?
  • Vendors whose demos look complicated or confusing, in spite of having a pile of “competitive differentiators”?
  • Sales people that speak ill of their competition?
  • Sales people that are “cagey” about providing pricing information?
  • Vendors that over-promise and under-deliver?

Interestingly – and sadly – the list above is what often occurs with typical, traditional vendors and sales people.  Most of us as customers perceive these items as unpleasant and they contribute to an overall negative impression.  Unwittingly, perhaps, these vendors and sales people have differentiated negatively.

Let’s look at the same list again, but with a different approach to each item:

  • Nurture or “trickle” marketing activities (as opposed to cold calling).
  • Rapid, specific responses to email inquiries.
  • Thorough and intelligent Discovery – before presenting solutions.
  • Crisp, focused, engaging demos of the Specific Capabilities needed by customers.
  • Sales teams that are clear and honest about their own offerings’ strengths and limitations.
  • Clear and transparent pricing information.
  • Building a vision of how the customer will move from their current (painful) state to their desired (glorious) future state with the solution in place and operating.

Generally speaking, these activities are viewed favorably by customers.  Vendors that follow these processes are already differentiating positively in comparison with “traditional” vendors.

My take: a startup is negotiating from the first contact with a prospect. They are negotiating for attention, time, insights, data, feedback, revenue, endorsements, etc.. The more you can do from the very first contact to show that you value your prospect’s time, opinions, and ultimately business by how you treat them, the better able you are to differentiate your startup from many common practices that communicate a lack of respect for the customer and their needs.


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 Great Demo! Public Workshop October 15-16, 2014

October 15&16, 2014 “Great Demo!” San Jose, CA Register Now

Our next public Great Demo! Workshop is scheduled to take place October 15-16 in San Jose, California.

This is an excellent opportunity for individuals, small groups or for teams that have new hires.

We’ve found that these events are most productive when there are two or more participants from each organization (singletons are also fine). This helps to mimic real-life interactions as much as possible, both when preparing demos and delivering them in the role-play sessions.

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