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Sales Differentiation: The Not-So-Obvious Fourth Pillar

· transparency sale,transparency,differentiation

How do you win in a space where 56+ companies claim to have the same technology you do?

Every company is looking for ways to differentiate. But there’s a not-so-obvious place to look…

Every article I read on sales differentiation focuses on three categories with which to seek it:
(1) Your offerings,
(2) Your company, and/or,
(3) The results/value.

Those articles also scream “if price is your differentiator, it’s a race to the bottom”.

All things I agree with - regardless of whether you have 55 competitors or none!

However, there’s a fourth pillar of potential differentiation that rarely gets talked about:

(4) The buying experience!

Let’s start with a little nerdery - and a quote from neuroscientist Antonio Damasio:

“We are not thinking machines that feel, we are feeling machines that think”

In other words, we don’t use logic to form our decisions as much as we use feelings and emotions.

What feelings & emotions am I referring to?

A major trigger of a purchase decision: Confidence in our prediction of what our experience is going to be like using a company’s products and/or services.

Our brains trigger a purchase decision when our prediction & expectations trigger a “yes, I’m confident in my prediction and the juice is worth the squeeze” feeling - which all starts with and requires trust.

As sellers, you are more directly responsible for the creation of those “feelings” than likely anyone or anything in your organization.

To start, realize that:

every interaction with a potential client either builds trust, or erodes it - it never stays the same.

Differentiate in the feelings you create during the selling journey.

My last two organizations were in highly commoditized spaces - website reviews (PowerReviews) and email marketing (ExactTarget). When a buyer would visit our website, the language used on our site probably looked a lot like the language used on our competitors' sites.

How is a buyer to decide?

One of my Transparency Sale clients, Malwarebytes, provides solutions in the “Endpoint Security” market (technology that protects the endpoints of their network, like laptops, desktops, mobile phones, tablets, servers, and virtual environments). According to industry analyst Info-Tech Research Group, there are 55 other companies in that space.

Yes...altogether 56 companies who provide solutions for endpoint security.

How, on Earth, can you differentiate just on offerings, company and value?

  • You can provide the best technology.
  • You can create an “all the cool kids are doing it” brand.
  • You can try to relate the two of those together to a “value/ROI” story.
  • And, you can embrace transparency as a differentiator. Lead with transparency, which builds the relationship on a foundation of trust. Then don't let go - transparency from the first discussion to the last - realizing that your role is to set proper expectations, assisting buyers in their brain’s desire to predict their experience.

Info-Tech helps buyers understand differentiation among the 56 - but in a unique way...via a "Emotional Footprint Report". This report put Malwarebytes up against the other 55 in categories like "Deceptive vs. Transparent", "Big Fat Liars vs. Trustworthy" and "Hardball Tactics vs. Friendly Negotiation".

And guess who came in first (out of 56) in all three?

They compete due to their superior tech. But if it stopped there, it would be an endless battle of proving it. However, they can and do win because they also focus on expectation setting through embracing transparency, leveraging it to build trust in every conversation - all the way through the way they deliver pricing and negotiate.

ExactTarget, a unicorn that had a successful IPO, then a monstrosity of an exit to Salesforce back in 2013, also provided superior technology, but I still run into individuals who used to compete against us that say they lost because of our "art of the possible" selling process, and the brand centered around our "Orange" culture.

At PowerReviews, in the early days our technology was inferior. Long story as to why, but we still slayed giants. I swear to this day that our primary differentiator was our process and our people. We swore by it.

Transparency - leading with why clients don’t choose you, what might not work right, what you give up to be great at your core. Openness. Communication. Accountability. Do their homework for them. Remove friction. Build trust. Set accurate expectations.

Your competitors probably aren't.

You have an opportunity to differentiate in the way you sell - as an individual, and as an organization. Tears rolling down my face seeing how well Malwarebytes did in these categories, but it’s a testament to why they do so well…and why many of the biggest success stories in crowded spaces stick their heads above the others.

If you are still looking to purchase the book, can I introduce you to an online book seller who's purpose is helping independent bookstores? Oh, and by the way, they're less expensive that Amazon, too.

Check out, and get the book here: The Transparency Sale on

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