You hear a lot of marketing types talk about differentiating yourself from the competition. If you don’t know how you are different from your competitors, you will lose, say the gurus.

Often when you ask one sales rep or another what makes them different, the response will be some variation of “outstanding customer service.”

Trouble is, excellent customer service is not a differentiator today; it’s a given. To be truly different, you need to know specifically how your service is better. Here are some ways to find out:

1. Ask your 10 best customers. Speak with them one-on-one to find out what is most important to them when they buy from you. Ask what you do particularly well or, in their minds, what about you is most different from your competitors. The payoff: You get to see yourself and your company through your most valued customers’ eyes. This learning is critically important.

2. Drill deeper. Let’s say “quick response time” is most important. You need to understand why. What value do your customers get from that? Can they get products to market faster? Does your data give them an edge?

Unless your customers tell you why you’re the best at what you do and how to remain in their favorable graces, you may accidentally think you can’t get any better. That’s a big mistake.

Source: From consultant Kathy Maixner. For more visit

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