When you sell services, what’s your differentiator?

What actually is your differentiator?

A lot of people running businesses or silos seem to think the answer to that question is one of two possibilities:

  • Our product
  • Our tech & quality of service

Can’t tell you how many information-seeking calls in different industries (partnership, sales as the goal) include some guy rambling on about his tech.

But are those really the differentiators? In some extreme cases, yes. Oftentimes, not at all. Let’s explore.

Think about mobile providers

By and large, mobile providers are all the same. The pricing is similar. The data plans are similar. They might have offers at specific times of the year, or you might have loyalty to one over the other, but in general the basic specs of the mobile coverage are very similar across providers. Unless you only are buying burner phones, which probably says something negative about your life or criminal history, price is not the differentiator, and product is not the differentiator, and tech isn’t even the differentiator.

What is?


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As with most services, the differentiator is…

… customer experience.

Most banks are similar in what you can get from them in terms of safely holding your money, interest rates, account options, etc.

Most insurance is pretty similar too.

These types of service companies might have some amazing tech behind the scenes, but their product and price is often within a very narrow range of each other. They are not differentiating on those factors.

This has been shown by research into merger and acquisition values, too:

When you sell services, what's your differentiator? 1

The value of “brand,” per this research, is actually declining, while the value of customer relationships is increasing. And if you really think about it, it makes perfect sense. The cost of acquiring a new customer is typically pretty high, especially for a services company. Retaining customers is crucial.

In fact, we know someone in professional services — think financial planning — who never really acquires new business. He has the same four core accounts and they retain year-over-year. He makes a tremendous living and provides very well for his family, and there’s nothing about “hyper-growth” or anything else. He just successfully retains some big-money clients. Often, that’s all it takes.

The increasing power of customer experience.

How do you get a better customer experience, then?

Let’s break this down into three stages:

During the sales process: Outsource this to a sales agency that appears to have a nice CX for their own service. Look at our site. We know what’s up.

During the client onboarding process: The work has only just started by signing the deal. Have a professional onboarding process, have it documented and talk about it even in pre-sales. Give the clients as close to full context as you possibly can as the work actually begins. Anticipate their questions and try to get ahead of them. That’s how you deliver early-stage client onboarding success, which is the same thing as customer experience or customer success.

Customer experience in support: Silent customers are not happy customers. “No news is good news” doesn’t work in business, or in personal relationships, to be honest. Make sure you have a mix of options for customers, and make sure they can always get a hold of a real person at some point in the process. Tech is cool, but when you’re frustrated about something, tech just annoys. Provide a good experience throughout support and you’ll be good as the relationship progresses.

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