Seller Differentiation Is the New Competitive Differentiation


Even if you represent a strong brand and product, you may need to work on seller differentiation in order to be positioned favorably in the buyer’s mind.

In this age of empowered buyers, commoditization is rampant. Buyers tend to over-​simplify product comparisons, stripping it down to price. What’s more, they lump all sellers into the same category — often the “to be avoided” category, unfortunately.

To standout from the crowd, sellers need to distinguish themselves. Seller differentiation gives buyers a reason to seek you out. Note: that’s YOU, not your product or service or brand. YOU.

Seller Differentiation Matters Even More When Competitive Differentiation Is Weak

Without clear competitive differentiation of products or brand, this is even more important.

In this scenario, a seller’s best shot at making the sales is to personally differentiate himself or herself from all the other sellers vying for the buyer’s business. The benefits of seller differentiation go beyond this initial sale, too.

Some sellers retain customers single-​handedly. That’s what’s happening when buyers migrate to follow a seller who leaves an organization. Buyers choose the seller even though the company, brand or product is no longer competitively differentiated in the customer’s mind. Every seller should strive for that kind of buyer loyalty by differentiating himself or herself.

Seller differentiation includes anything setting you apart in a way that makes you competitive. Without relying on your company’s brand or your product’s strengths, think about why a buyer would choose to do business with you personally. What do you bring that is of value?

As you consider this question, focus on what you bring with real, relevant and apparent value to the buyer. That you were the #1 seller in your company last year is simply not of value to the buyer. That you have more experience than most other sellers in your market and field is also not of interest to your buyer. In fact, both of these facts could be viewed negatively by the buyer. The top seller, the buyer may think, must be really aggressive and pushy. The most experienced seller, a buyer might assume, won’t have any fresh or new ideas for us and will be stuck in the past.

Deb Calvert

Deb Calvert

Deb Calvert, “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected” author and Top 50 Sales Influencer, is President of People First Productivity Solutions, a UC Berkeley instructor, and a former Sales/​Training Director of a Fortune 500 media company. She speaks and writes about the Stop Selling & Start Leading movement and offers sales training, coaching and consulting as well as leadership development programs. She is certified as an executive and sales coach by the ICF and is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. Deb has worked in every sector to build leadership capacity, team effectiveness and sales productivity with a “people first” approach.