The Competition Is the Commodity

By Tom Searcy

I am sick and tired of fruit analogies. In particular, when I hear, “We want to make an apples-to-apples comparison.” GRRRRRR!!!!!!!

Sometimes we spend so much time distinguishing ourselves from our competition’s efforts to commoditize us that we forget that there are commonalities in our competitive product set. If a commodity is defined as, “when two things are being viewed as good enough,” there are times this characterization can work in our favor. In legal parlance, it’s called conceding the point.

We want to focus on those elements that are not a commodity to solve the specified problem. Everything that does not specifically solve the client’s problem is by the previous definition, a commodity.

So, how do we point out that something we don’t have is not relevant to the problem? The best way is to use powerful words to draw attention away from the shiny object that the competition is pointing to as vital. Here are three ways to accomplish this goal:

  1. Solution seeking a problem. I have seen so much “nice to have” technology inside of a basic business solution, it sometimes makes me wonder if the provider knew what the problem was to begin with. If you own a laser-guided bottle opener, and the bottle only requires the classic church key, then you have overkill. However, if you have cool technology with only vague application, you have a solution seeking a problem.
  2. Distinction without difference. Often, the competition points to a small difference between you and them, and declares that this is the point upon which the purchase decision must pivot. In these situations, I recommend that you move back to the question, “What problem are we trying to solve here?”
  3. Difference is less than the degree of uncertainty. Sometimes your competition does have a superior feature in their product set. However, if you’ve done your homework, rarely does your competition beat you on every benefit. We want to prove that, although one piece of what they have is excellent, the on-balance measurement goes to you.

Eels, incumbents and first-line competitors are working hard all the time to commoditize you. In turn, we are working to distinguish ourselves from our competition. However, don’t get caught in the trap of trying to win every point when credibility is going to be stretched. It is better to concede some points, but to marginalize their value.

The founder and CEO of Hunt Big Sales, Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account selling and has made a career out of doing big deals and creating explosive growth. Read more about Tom here.
Originally published: Jan 13, 2012

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