Why Differentiation is Critical for a Sales Representative

Let’s say you are a sales representative for a technology company trying to call on IT Directors. How many of your competitors are doing the same thing? The following is a small sample (thirteen) of the types of companies that might call an IT Director. This could easily become 30-40 vendors calling the same IT Director.

What are Influencers/Decision Makers that you are trying to contact focused on?

These key contacts do not care about what any sales representative is trying to sell. They are focused on what is meaningful to them, including:

  • Resolving business or technical issues
  • Looking good in front of their management
  • Getting a raise or getting promoted

How do you break through…do some homework

There is no getting around it…you have to do your homework on the prospective customer and your competition.  While there are other critical elements to breaking through, this effort will play a huge role in separating you from your competition.  To quote Steven Covey, the well-known self-help author…”Seek first to understand, then be understood”.

What you should know about your prospective customer includes:


  • Strategic Plan
  • News, Business Trends
  • Challenges
  • Investments
  • Competition (who they compete with)

Key Contacts

  • Background
  • Role
  • Goals

Here is a recent example

In the past couple of years, I invested a significant amount of time driving services business through a global technology OEM. When I started calling on this customer, there was only one project and a very few working relationships with key contacts. Considering there were approximately 20 competitors, it was important to figure out how we could differentiate ourselves. I led an effort to understand the customer’s strategic focus, learn how decisions were made and expand working relationships with key representatives from the customer.  

Time was not on our side because the OEM was looking to reduce the number of strategic partners. Our effort to be assertive in growing the business created some challenges, so we had to tread carefully for a period of time. Despite the challenges, we established solid working relationships with over 80 key contacts and significantly grew our share of the business. Doing the homework and being persistent paid off.