Standing Out in a Sea of Sameness

Focusing your message on the buyer and not you, your product, or buzzwords is critical today.

By Carole Mahoney

Eighty-eight percent of companies (88%!) say that their competition offers similar capabilities. I mean, who doesn’t have excellent customer service, an all-in-one solution, or is not using the latest technology?

There really isn’t much new under the sun. So how do you stand out in a sea of sameness?

Putting It to a Test

To find out what type of messaging truly works best to differentiate my company, Unbound Growth, in a competitive market, I turned to B2B Decision Labs. It tested 400 business-to-business buyers on four different types of messaging.

First, they tested a features-based message framework. This is where you list capabilities that solve a buyer’s challenge or problem. It sounds something like:

“When you work with Unbound Growth and use our sales hiring services, you’ll access our sales-specific database of more than 2 million sales professionals evaluated. We also provide a fast and efficient onboarding process designed specifically for new hires, powered by our sales-specific behavioral program. Not only that, Unbound Growth has training and coaching programs used by
hundreds of sellers and managers. We have all the services that any sales leaders would want or need from a sales training company.”

Second, there is benefits messaging which describes the benefits of each capability so buyers understand what each feature can do for them. This might go like this:

“When you work with Unbound Growth and use our sales hiring services, you can fill your empty sales teams while ensuring you have the best-fit candidates. Thanks to the largest sales-specific database in the world, you will save time and resources hiring the best candidates. Once they’re hired, you’ll be able to onboard and ramp them in weeks, not months. Plus, Unbound Growth’s science-based training and coaching programs means you can scale your sales teams faster and better.”

The third type of messaging is called superlatives. This is where you use terms like “all-in-one,” “streamlines,” or “integrated.” I call this corporate speak: blah blah blah, yada yada, yada.

“When you work with Unbound Growth, you get a one-stop-shop for all of your sales recruiting and onboarding and training needs. We have an integrated and streamlined training program and sales-behavior database to hire the highest quality sellers and managers. With Unbound Growth’s streamlined onboarding and ongoing training program, you’ll be able to bring sellers up to speed instantaneously. And with a comprehensive on demand training program, you can scale your business with us.”

The last type of messaging is called telling details. This is specific to the business problem, how the capability solves it, and the value of that. Because it is so detailed, it is much longer. It goes like this:

“When you work with Unbound Growth, you can fill empty seats on your sales team without compromising quality and fit. With our 2 million-plus database of sellers evaluated specifically for sales, you can recruit the best-fit sellers and reduce or eliminate attrition rates on your sales teams. Unbound Growth trainers and coaches walk you through each step of the hiring process to establish your specific qualifications and preferences, even when the job market is tough. That means you can quickly apply your role criteria to qualified and interested sellers and sales leaders who are the best qualified fit according to data of 2 million sales professionals. Once hired, you’ll onboard sellers in weeks instead of months because our trainers will lead your team through a repeatable and scalable onboarding process. This reduces your risk of attrition, as every hire recommended but doesn’t work out will be replaced at no charge. And our unmatched 91% success rate for new hires means you can more predictably scale your sales team from five to 50 and increase your revenue from 10 million to 100 million.”

Can you guess which type of messaging beats out all the others as preferred, credible, and convincing and most likely to buy from?

The telling details won out—by a lot—across all the variables. Here’s why.

It’s All About Them

First, it was buyer-first-focused and used language like “you can” and “that means” to frame capabilities. That makes it all about the buyer, not your features and benefits.

Second, it was specific and quantifiable, which helps to make the capability more credible.

And, finally, because this messaging was both buyer-focused, specific, and quantifiable, 91% of buyers tested said it was more valuable to them.

The devil is in the details. This is what makes the vision of success more believable—because it is specific.

And yeah, I know; that means it takes time. It also means that you must be good at actively listening and asking good clarifying questions. Because without that, how could you possibly know what details matter?

Don’t add more words for the heck of it. You must have a point, and a point that matters to your buyers. If the additional information doesn’t add clarity, then you are “superlatively” wandering all over the place.

Specifics are memorable because they mobilize the brain according to Dr. Carmen Simon, a cognitive neuroscientist, at B2B DecisionLabs. When you carefully choose the telling details, you attract more attention and ignite people’s senses, which leads to stronger and more precise memories.

Think about your favorite memories. You can likely recall a smell, an image, or a sound. The more details you remember, the more real the memory is to you.

Now think about what happens when you share that memory with others who were there, and how they add their details to it.

This is the opportunity you must create connections between you and your buyers. This is yet another way to sell with your buyers, not to them.

It’s a Science

Selling is harder today than it was a few years ago, and it is only going to get even more difficult in our digital world. That is unless you leverage the decision science of how we make our buying decisions today and the behavioral science behind how we shift our mindsets and adopt new behaviors.

That means you can make your decisions based on data and science, not guesswork and assumptions.

What questions come to mind when you think about the results of this research? How will you apply it to your day-today conversations with customers?

Mahoney Offers Tips on YouTube for Sales Leaders and Sellers
Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney provides tips for sales leaders and sellers on YouTube. Past topics have included how to get over fears and have better conversations, how to become a top salesperson, and cognitive behavioral tips to sell on value. To watch these videos and future ones, visit Mahoney’s Linktree webpage and click “YouTube” in the drop-down menu.
Have a Sales or Marketing Question for Mahoney? Let Us Know!
Is there a sales or marketing issue that you have wondered about for a long time? Do you wish you or your team had a technique for better closing sales or promoting your business and its products and services? Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney can help. Email WWJ Editor Thad Plumley at tplumley@ngwa.org and he will arrange for Mahoney to answer your question in a video at www.WaterWellJournal.com.

Carole Mahoney, as the founder of Unbound Growth, has coached Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial MBA students on sales and been featured as a top sales coach by Ambition and Sales Hacker. You can contact her directly at www.unboundgrowth.com.