The vast majority of prospect proposals are presented with commercial propositions that are more or less standard, and terms and conditions that are pretty uniform across a market. You take time to differentiate your products and services from your competitors, the same approach should be applied to your commercial offer. It could be the difference between winning or losing the opportunity.

Many companies invest significant marketing time and money in differentiating their customer propositions, making them stand out from the competition. In reality however your good competitors, the ones you lose business to are all doing the same thing. Therefore the prospect receives a number of proposals that all present roughly the same solution to their requirements, but are presented it in a slightly different way. Some prospects will see some elements of your proposal as a benefit, but there will be elements of competitive proposals that will be beneficial over and above what you are offering. This is selling though, and it is not going to change.

To make your proposal standout you need to do something different, something that your competitors are not doing. Any salesperson can understand the customer requirement, budget, decision making process and timescale, although some do fall at this hurdle! The really successful salespeople however present a proposal that ticks all of the customer’s requirement boxes such as those mentioned before, but they also look to deliver some other value to the customer. Something that they have identified during the scoping discussions the competition may not have seen.

As an example, in 2001 Apple introduced the iPod which enabled users to copy their CD’s and download music from the internet onto the device and play it either through a speaker or headphones. This was an elegant solution, but it did nothing over many of its competitor’s offerings. In 2003 however, Apple introduced the iTunes music store. This enabled users to buy and download music in a way that was more convenient, and it connected the music rightsholders to their customers in a way that had never been achieved before. It quickly became the world’s largest music retailer. In 2008 the iPhone and App Store were launched, and the rest as they say is history.

The Apple example is an extreme one, and one could argue that rather than adding value Apple changed the market dynamics completely. What is clear however is by giving the customer something different from that which the competition were presenting, Apple differentiated themselves and their commercial proposition and as a result were very successful.