Before you can properly sell what you do it’s time to first do your homework. Specifically, you must decide why you are DIFFERENT. When you are competing head to head against another small business you have to be able to explain your differentiation if you expect people to choose you. Over the years I have found it to be important to go back to our roots and think about the dream that got you into this business in the first place. Why did you choose the business you chose?

Here are some questions to answer that may help you decide . . .

When you first got a “fire in your belly” about starting a business what SPECIFICALLY did you think you could do better than your competition?

The important thing here is to be extremely specific. Could you cook a better dish? Could you service a customer in a way that you’ve never seen before? What was it that made you say “I want to start a business doing this . . .”

Now that you have relived your dream of day’s past. It’s time get even more specific . . . here we go:

1. Write down your competitors by name. If you don’t know your competitors then that’s a problem in itself but I assume you do know who you compete with.

2. Beside each competitor’s name I want you to answer the following:

  • Are they bigger or smaller than you?
  • Have they been in business longer or shorter than you?
  • What do they do BETTER than you? I know, we never want to admit this but there is always something that others do better than us.
  • What do YOU do better than them? By the way, this is an important question to answer because it will help you to develop your DIFFERENTIATION . . . which is the key to increasing sales.

Now that you have your list together it’s time to start developing our message around your answers. Here are some specific strategies I have found to be helpful:

If your competition is BIGGER than you then you need to structure your message around the fact that YOU, the OWNER is heavily involved in each customer’s contact. The phrase “you are not just a number to me” is a great phrase to use when showing your differentiation

If your competition is SMALLER than you then you need to structure your message around the fact that you have backups. Your message should say things such as “We have a TEAM of professionals here to help you out”

In summary, the smaller you are the more you want to focus on how personal their experience will be. If you are larger you want to focus on the many options they can get from your small business vs. the competitor.

How about if they have been in business longer than you? In this case you want to focus on the fact that you saw a need in your market that wasn’t being met (and be prepared to explain this)

If they have been in business for LESS time than you then you want to focus your message on your PROVEN CONSISTENCY. Use the phrase “we have been in business for X years and that has taught us to serve the customer better”. The point here is that years in business is a tremendous equity advantage if you phrase your marketing message appropriately.

The third question we talked about was “What does your competition do BETTER than you?” The information you gleam here should be used for your personal growth. Learn from your competition and when they are doing something great try to implement parts of it into your strategy. There’s no use reinventing the wheel if someone has already proven it works!

The final question of “What do YOU do better than your competition?” is a key question that you should build your differentiation around. If you have quicker service, better customer feedback or a higher quality product then use that in your message. At this point your are selling the sizzle more than the steak!

Now that you have your itemized points together it’s time to construct your message. And your message should come in two forms:

Elevator Speech: Short, quick statement that grabs their attention and makes them say”tell me more”.

Expanded Version: This is a follow up to the elevator speech and should be used after they say “tell me more”.

Here are some examples of great Elevator Speeches:

“We help customers increase sales”

“We help customers take the pain out of their buying experience” (If your competition makes purchasing complicated)

“We provide a food experience that hasn’t been seen in our area before”

“We deliver our product in 24 hours or less” (If time constraints are important in your market)

These types of elevator speeches should cause people to say “Tell me more” which is your ultimate goal. And, when they do ask this statement you should follow up with a question. For example:

If you said “We help customers increase sales” and the prospect said “Tell me more” you should respond with “John, how do you increase sales now?”

And, the reason you ASK a question is because you want to get your prospect talking. If they talk then they will tell you not only what they do now but they will also go further and tell you more “pain points” which is the key to capitalizing on the conversation.

Once your prospect hast told you the methods they have used (or are using) without success it’s time for you to pounce on the opportunity to explain the EXPANDED VERSION of your script and get them excited about your differentiation.

In conclusion, sales is an art and not a science. As you get outside of your business and talk to more people you will learn how to better deliver your information. You will see the look in their eyes when you say things and you should evolve over time as you eliminate certain phrases and hold tight to others. But remember, your overall message should explain your DIFFERENTIATION from your competition. You are always better served by being different than by trying to be all things to all people.

Your assignment is to develop your Elevator Speech so that you can answer the question “What do you do?” in a compelling way that makes people say “Tell me more!”. BTW, if you want to submit your Elevator Speech to me for review I will be happy to provide insight on it and help you develop your ultimate selling script. Good luck!