Are All Hands on Deck Ready to Deliver Your Sustainable Competitive Advantage?

Posted on 07/24/2013 in Selling Skills

All salespeople agree that "differentiation” is crucial.  Otherwise, you haven’t provided the customer with a compelling reason to select you.

In STAR’s Key Account Management and Sales Negotiation Skills workshops, we’ve observed that many salespeople and managers don’t fully utilize differentiation to their maximum advantage.   For example, they cite differentiators that aren’t important to the customer.  

How can you improve your ability to differentiate yourself from competition?  STAR has found that the concept of "sustainable competitive advantage” helps tremendously.

Sustainable Competitive Advantage (SCA) occurs when you have the ability to outperform your competitors because you have a standout attribute or attributes, ensuring leadership in your market. Your Sustainable Competitive Advantage should ideally meet four criteria:

  1. Valuable Does this customer perceive the value you are offering?  If the customer doesn’t perceive any value to them, then that attribute doesn’t provide you with any competitive advantage.
  2. Rare/Unique Are you offering something rare or unique to this customer? If so, emphasize it and explain how it will benefit the customer
  3. Difficult to Copy Competitors may try to copy you so highlight those things that are not easy for them to do so.  For example, your expertise and experience level.
  4. Organized to Capture Is your company positioned to deliver on said promises? If the answer is yes, then you are organized, ready and able to exploit the capability you are touting.  In other words, are all hands on deck ready to deliver your competitive advantage? 
Harvard Business School Professor, Michael Porter, authored the SCA concept in 1985. More recent authors on competitive advantage expand on the theory by emphasizing the challenges that many SCA attributes may be transient. For example, if a competitor copies something that currently is unique to you, you have to improve and evolve over time as well.  Innovation and agility are very important attributes and help you stay ahead in the game.

Strive to reach consensus with your sales team on your most critical SCA factors.  It is much better to have a smaller list that consists of the 3 to 4 strongest items rather than a longer list.  We invite you to watch a short video that summarizes the four elements of STAR’s SCA: Why STAR?