Your Business's Best Differentiator

When you exhibit true interest in learning and helping, you telegraph how valuable the customer is.

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Minerva Studio/

Ask any small business owner about what differentiates their company and they will probably tell you it's their customer service. In many industries, there aren't tons of opportunities for a company to stand out. The offerings are often identical and the marketplace determines the pricing structure. So, it can be difficult for a business owner to truly identify what differentiates their company from the competition.

The truth is that your differentiator isn't customer service. While degrees of customer service can vary from one company to the next, it's pretty hard to provide a level of service so high that it is noticed by everyone who comes in contact with your business, or weighs heavily in the buying process. Moreover, your clients decide how they feel about your level of customer service. Claiming customer service as your differentiator is really a default position. It's not necessarily based on reality.

Because most industries are highly competitive, it is more important than ever to embrace what sets your company apart. The best differentiators are the ones that your customers find valuable. There's one thing all customers have in common: They want to be treated like they are the most important customer in the world. They want to know that you are invested in them, their success, their well-being. No customer wants to feel like they are just a number.

The best way to show how much you value your customers is to show genuine interest in them. Let go of the desire to sell them something. Sales will come when they are supposed to. Moreover, your customers will be more inclined to buy from you when they don't feel that's all you are interested in. This level of interest has to be authentic. You can't fake it. Get very curious about them in a holistic way.

Let's break it down between B2B and B2C.

B2B Customers

There are so many things to know about your B2B clients. How are things going? What initiatives are they working on? What, if any, challenges are they facing? What are their goals for the coming year?

These are just a handful of questions you can ask. The key is to ask without a sales agenda. Simply be curious and present. You'll learn a great deal, including how you might be able to help them. Once again, I'm not talking about what you can sell them. Rather, what resources do you have that could be of value? Who can you introduce them to? When you exhibit true interest in learning and helping, you telegraph how valuable the customer is.

You could also learn something critical that could impact your vendor/client relationship. For example, if you discover they are struggling with revenue or cash flow, that can have consequences for your business. On the other hand, if they are growing like crazy, you might consider opportunities to provide them with additional products or services.

B2C Customers

When you sell to consumers, the questions tend to focus on them, their family, their interests, hobbies, goals, careers, etc. But while the questions will be different, the focus and intention are the same. Learn as much as you can about them, offer them resources where appropriate and be a trusted ally.

For both B2B and B2C, there are additional benefits that come with showing this level of interest. First, it increases their trust in you. When that trust is heightened, your customers will refer you to their communities. They'll be proud and eager to share you with their colleagues and friends.

Second, the more you learn about your customers the more you can help them problem solve. If they are experiencing a challenge, brainstorm ideas with them. Get creative. One way you can use the information you learn is by connecting your customers to their prospects.

Your best differentiator is how you take care of your customers. They want to be heard and helped. Approach customers and prospects with curiosity. Be motivated to learn as much as you can about them. Then use that information to help to connect, to partner. Your customers will value their relationship with you far beyond the product or service you provide. It will be obvious that you care and that you are more concerned with their success than your income. The rewards will be significant and long term.

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