Differentiating you’re your company from its competitors is a struggle for many business owners and Sellers. Ask what separates their firm from others and you will likely get a blank stare. Those who do respond often say it’s our people or refer to their “secret sauce.” Still others dismiss the concept of differentiation altogether and insist that it is all comes down to price – the lowest bid wins the job.  

We all know the lowest cost option isn’t always the best choice. Which is why your company must provide value aside from cost and must be able to articulate the value in a way that is meaningful to your customers.

A business fundamental many ignore is aligning your organization on the real value of your solution and clearly communicating how it is different from what other suppliers offer. I encourage clients to focus on answering four fundamental questions where it matters most – in front of the customer.

1. What problems do you solve for your customers?

This is a very basic question, yet I find some teams get hung up on the services provided rather than the benefits the client gained as a result of the services. Consider why your customers are seeking your solution in the first place. Is it operational efficiency? Improved user access or experience? Is there a capacity issue driving the need? What about safety, security, or functionality?

Review the top 10 projects your firm executed in the past year and define the problems you solved. Compare these and you will begin to see patterns. Your entire organization must align on the problems they solve for their customers.

Next, your marketing, sales, and delivery messaging must all align on the critical challenges that the solution provides. This process helps the organization choose projects with a high probability of execution success and customer satisfaction.

2. How do you solve the problems? 

It is easy to tell customers what you do, but much harder to describe how you do it. Saying you help customers achieve peak operating performance may be true, but so do competing organizations that provide the same services. How specifically do you help customers achieve that peak operating performance? Can you describe how you execute work in a way that is meaningful to the customer?

Clients are looking for cost-effective solutions. They want predictable results. Consistency in solution delivery is as important as consistency in your messaging.

Lack of consistency ins service delivery often shows up in repeat business with a customer. For example, let’s say you have successfully executed a number of projects with the same project manager. Over time, new PMs are introduced into the account, but the client experience is radically different. The processes, procedures, and reports they had become accustomed to are gone. The communication is weak, and client is dissatisfied.

Alignment on how you deliver your solution drives efficiency internally and increases customer satisfaction and retention.  

3. What makes your solution different from the competition? 

In the engineering and construction industry there is a lot of competition between similar solutions. The truth is, although all competitors may be providing the same services, the way they package and deliver them is different. Knowing this difference and being able to explain it to clients in a way that resonates with them is key.

Let’s say you are a national company and say you are different because of your nationwide network of offices. If your client is a state agency or municipality, or an industrial company with plants only in the southeast, this differentiation means irrelevant.

If you want to stand out, make the differentiators relatable to the client’s business challenges. This is difficult to do if your company and its representatives aren’t aligned on your key differentiation.

4. What is your proof? 

Every firm has systems for measuring success and reporting on the results. The most successful firms compile these results in way that sales teams and other customer facing personnel can effectively share them with clients. Data can be assembled and reported in a way that makes it easy for customers to believe what you have told them.

Probably the most effective proofs are third-party testimonials and client references. Industry awards and recognition increase credibility and may provide reassurance to a buyer who is reluctant to take a chance on a new firm.

Equip your team with an arsenal of proof points that validate your solution and differentiate your firm from the competition.

Standing out in a sea of competitors may seem like an insurmountable task. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Use these four questions to align your team on the value you deliver and create a message that is easily understood by all. Master this fundamental and watch your business soar.

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