Thursday, March 19, 2009

What uniquely differentiates you from your competitors in ways that benefit the customer?

Dear Friends,

What uniquely differentiates you from your competitors in ways that benefit the customer?

How you answer this question will reveal how you think.

How you think will precede what you do.
What you do will determine your referral business.
Your referral business will be a result of how you think!

Before I continue I need to explain the foundation of what I call a Referral Mindset.
If you have ever attended one of my workshops you have heard me speak of the 3 Commonalities/Patterns or Mindshifts that are found in those individuals who have an effective referral based business.

This week I'll go into a little more detail on one of the Commonalities - CUSTOMER PERCEPTION.

Here is a quick over view of what those who have an effective referral business have in common.

1. Customer Perception

They manage customer perception as the only reality. They realize that what uniquely differentiates them from other competitors in ways that benefit the customer isn't what they do but rather what others think and feel they do.

2. Entrepreneurial Perception
They see themselves differently as entrepreneurial, or as managers of a huge sales organization, and see others, not as clients, customers, friends, neighbors, co-workers, family, and business associates, but as "part-time sales people" who advocate for them. It is not what you do, it is to whom you do it!

3. Activity Focus
They focus on the activities, not the outcome. They continually develop and implement the activities that when done superbly well will greatly improve their referral business within the context of their Deeds, Dialog, and Database.

Now, lets get back to the original question...

What uniquely differentiates you from your competitors in ways that benefit the customer?

Okay, what was your first or second response? Don't over engineer it. Just say out loud what you thought. Now write it down.

In the past 17 years that I have asked this question, of professionals in a variety of industries, here's what I've heard.
I'm experienced
I'm knowledgeable
I'm hard working
I'm customer focused
I'm sensitive to the needs of others
I speak four languages
I know the market better than anyone
I know how to establish a rapport
I went to the best law school
I have all the best designations
I've been doing this for 30 years
I'm caring and attentive
I specialize
I listen well
I work 7 days a week
I'm always available
I do what I say I'm going to do
I'm in the top 5% of my industry
I sell more than anyone else in my town
I have a sense of humor
I'm patient
I'm just real good at what I do

All good responses. Did you find yours there?
We tend to focus on what we do well as what uniquely differentiates us from our competitors. We think it makes us unique and separates us from our competitors.

But not for those who have an effective referral business. They tend to answer this question in the most unusual way.

When asked "What uniquely differentials you from your competitors in ways that benefit the customer?" they respond:

"NOTHING uniquely differentiates me from my competitors EXCEPT what others think of me."

"It is not what I do, it's what others think and feel I do. It's how they see me. Customer perception is the only reality and I choose what I do to help shape that perception."

"Nothing, read this word carefully, NO THING makes me different. It's not about the things you do, but about how the things you do effect people's perceptions of you."

Of course those who have successful referral businesses possess the qualities and virtues listed above but they also recognize that others in their field possess them as well...and therefore they are not unique.

Think of it this way.
If you are a Realtor...
You can show the same homes as a competitor
You have access to the same lenders
You can use the same attorney
You can use the same title insurance companies
You can use the same home inspectors
You have business cards, your competitors do too
When you list a home you put it in MLS, they do too
You put a "for sale" sign on the property, they do too
You advertise in the newspaper, so do they
You advertise in Harmon homes, so do they
You have a great web page, so do they
You're nice, so are they
You're knowledgeable, so are they
You speak 4 languages, so does someone else

You get the point - parity is the rule!

In all fairness, I could probably find a number of good, competent, qualified people just like you, who might even provide the same service for less. You may not like that but it's true.

This is a bitter pill to swallow, and the more experience you have the harder it is to accept and shift your thinking.

If you really look at what we do from a consumers perspective we all look like we do about the same thing.

If you are a lender you have about the same 30 year fixed rate loan as the next Fannie Mae lender down the street. It's not as if you have 4% and the rest of the world is at 6.5%.

If you are an attorney, home inspector, Realtor, lender, insurance agent, or investment advisor, it's not what you do that differentiates you from others, it's really what others think you do.

It's how they feel about you...and that my friends is the subtlety in the first and most important MindShift.

Those who have a successful and effective referral business understand the tremendous impact in their shift of thinking to "It's not what I do, it's what others think I do. Therefore I have to manage their perception on a daily basis as well as maintain the core competencies of my field."

Here's an example.
When you fax something to a client immediately follow-up and say something like this, even if you leave a voicemail message, "Hi Bob, I just wanted to make sure you got the fax I sent you. If you have any questions, let me know."

If you mail something to a client call and say something similar. We all know that faxes and mail sometimes get lost.

How would you feel if your attorney or accountant or doctor immediately and consistently followed up after sending you a fax or a piece of mail?

How would you describe their level of service based on a follow-up call after a fax or mail?
Great follow-up?
Caring? you've got it!

It's not about the fax or the mail. It's about how you feel about the service provider's attention. It's special, it's different, it manages your perception of them.


The more you can manage their perception in a positive way, the more you'll invite a compelling advocacy and have a great referral business.

What uniquely differentiates you from your competitors in ways that benefit the consumer?

Nothing - except what others think about you. It's how they see you.

Of the 3 Commonalities shared by those who have an effective referral business the first is the subtle shift to focus your efforts to managing Customer Perception.

Managing Customer Perception is far greater than the linear tasks found in customer service. Customer service is more akin to your core service.

Managing customer perception is based on other people's point of view and requires a totally different mindset and strategy.

Thanks for spending 3 minutes with me.....
The best is yet to be!

On Your Team
Jeffrey Stanton ITI, CLC, CNE, WOW
Your Trusted Advisor For Life

One of the fastest ways to build a successful business is by training. Now, with me, I like to invest significant time immersing myself in training, while some people prefer to take it in bite-size chunks. Whatever your preference is, now is the best time to contact me.

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