You can go to a hundred different trainers and so-called business development experts and you would get a hundred different answers with regard to what makes someone successful in business.  Everything from—you have to have a plan, to you have to work hard and have the right attitude. All this advice would be quite correct. I believe that to be successful, a business and/or sales-person must follow a specific model.

The good news is that the model is very, very basic—

-You must present yourself by differentiating yourself from your competition in a positive way;
-You must do business with people/companies who trust and like you;
-When you serve these people, you must exceed their expectations.

The good news is that the rules are simple. The bad news is that they are not always easy to achieve. However, achievement of these rules is not optional. It is not by accident that we have used the word “must” as part of each rule.  This article focuses on the area of market differentiation and what we mean by being different from your competition.

Imagine this. You are a real estate agent. And you receive a really, really slick advertisement in the mail from another agent. List your home with me. Of course you chuckle. But you are also jealous because this ad looks better than yours. So, what we do is try to emulate it—or even make it better. There is a word for this. It is called benchmarking. Benchmarking takes the best of what others have done and uses it to create something even better.

Here is the problem. If your advertising follows everyone else, you are marketing with the masses. Your message and your offer must be unique so that your marketing can be seen. Imagine receiving five offers for credit cards at a 0.9% introductory rate in your mail this evening. Are you going to read each one? Of course not! When you receive the same message again and again, it hits the “round file” very quickly.

The concept of differentiation is not limited to marketing. It must be an integral part of your total business model. Those who distinguish themselves by developing a niche give their business a unique advantage over their competition. They put themselves in a position to be known as an expert. Even more significant is the fact that those who could have been competition now become potential synergy partners. In other words, those within their own industry will turn to these experts for advice and even set up reciprocal referral relationships.

The generalist has no such advantage. Because they tend to try to sell all things to all people, everyone becomes a potential competitor. They are known as an “agent” and find it hard to argue why they should be selected by a prospect except to make the exact claims of their competitors. Claims such as—I will give excellent service or cut my price.

This concept extends to those who try to move across disciplines so that they can make more money per customer. Some try to do real estate, mortgages, insurance and financial planning. This business model will help someone make a living—but it is also likely to doom them to mediocrity. They will be an expert in nothing and every potential synergy partner is now defined as competition.

It should be noted that any claims of differentiation must be substantiated. For example, if you are going to claim a service advantage, what makes it different than the great service extolled by your competitor? How can you prove this?

In this case the use of social proof, or testimonials, becomes all-important. If you give great service then you better have a legion of customers you have served who will carry your message. Testimonials are important differentiation tools. You must have a system to capture the feelings of your customers and a way of communicating these feelings to your prospects