IF YOU are responsible for sales growth in your organisation, you must differentiate yourself in the marketplace.

Last week, in an article in this Recruit section, I noted that most business owners and sales staff throughout North America and Asia struggle with:

* Attracting their ideal clients;

* Differentiating themselves in the marketplace; and

* Converting more leads into sales.

Let us now focus on how you can differentiate yourself in the marketplace.

The only way of achieving this is by developing a product strategy that is built upon the following three pillars:

1. Become totally familiar with the products you sell

There is good news and bad news.

I will start with the bad news: Buyers have more choices available to them now than ever before. And those choices complicate the buying process.

Now the good news: Becoming a product expert will simplify and shorten the buying process. You should be able to supply accurate information about your products (and those of your competitors).

If your products are more complex and expensive, you are more likely to get a favourable response (especially in B2B selling) if your proposal contains return-on-investment (ROI) selling appeals.

In the eyes of your customer, you are the business, so be prepared to share the history and mission of your organisation and keep in touch by providing service after the sale.

The easiest ways to become a product expert are to use your own product, see how it is produced, talk to your team, listen to customer feedback and read trade and technical publications.

2. Identify what sets you apart from other solution providers

Since buyers have more choices available to them, what sets you apart from other solution providers?

Perhaps you are the oldest and largest business in your industry.

You could have the biggest selection available.

Maybe you offer the lowest price guaranteed, or the fastest delivery.

Perhaps you are offering the hottest and newest products or services.

It all comes down to positioning.

Product positioning is the decisions, activities and communication strategies that are directed towards trying to create and maintain your intended product concept in the customer’s mind.

When customers think of your business, what exactly are they thinking?

One way to identify what sets you apart from other solution providers is to ask your current customers why they picked you.

What do they see as your strengths? Which of your qualities are most important to them in your work together? What is most valuable to them in your work together?

You could also do an Internet search on the keywords “signature strengths” and complete an online questionnaire that measures character strengths.

Pick your top three strengths and use bridge statements to clearly communicate how they benefit your customers.

For example, in my case, it is: “I’m always exploring and discovering new tools that can help clients increase their sales.”

3. Create a list of frequently asked questions

With more choices available, buyers also seem to have more questions.

Fortunately, you will notice there are some questions that are asked more frequently than others.

For example: How does it work? How long does it take? How much does it cost?

You could also schedule 20-minute meetings with three of your prospective customers and give them an opportunity to ask all sorts of questions about your business.

Take note of the questions that arise the most and rehearse your responses. This will also help you anticipate and answer buyer concerns and objections during sales presentations.

You can even have a list of frequently asked questions along with your answers posted on your website and included in other marketing materials. This will help create a better-informed customer who could shorten the sales cycle.