Positioning Your Product
Branding and other positioning tactics are often seen as marketing's job. However, there's no reason why the salespeople in the trenches can't get involved with positioning as well. Developing your own USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is just one example of how you can make yourself more attractive to prospects.
Positioning your product – and your company – in the marketplace basically means associating yourself with certain adjectives (hopefully positive ones). When a prospect catches a glimpse of your logo, or drives by one of your company's branches, you want them to feel certain emotions in connection to your company.
There's a nearly infinite number of adjectives and emotional shadings that you can try to associate with your product, but they all tend to fall into one of four categories: faster, cheaper, better, or different. When you're deciding about how to position your product, you should choose one or two of these categories and then narrow your choice down further based on which categories you choose.
Positioning yourself as better than your competitors is generally best accomplished through customer service. After all, as a salesperson, you can't control how well made your product is or what features it comes with, but you can make a commitment to take exceptionally good care of your customers.
Positioning yourself as different often goes hand in hand with better. If you're providing a level of customer service no one else is, then by definition you're different as well as better. However, if you really want to stand out, you'll need to do something particularly unusual or even oddball. For example, one creative salesperson sent an old shoe to a prospect with a note saying, "Just trying to get my foot in the door." That approach may or may not get you a sale, but it will definitely position you as different in the prospect's mind.
Choosing to emphasize faster is also closely related to customer service at your level. It comes down to being responsive, getting back to customers the same day they call, resolving problems quickly, getting parts and products to the customer a timely fashion, and so on. Faster can also relate to how much or how little time a customer has to spend dealing with a problem. If he can resolve everything with one call to you, it will feel very fast to him, even if it takes several days for you to completely fix things.
Positioning yourself as cheaper is probably the least desirable category. By definition, you'll be making less money per sale – and probably less money overall – if you're passing out discounts left and right. The cheaper category is the only one that cuts right into your bottom line.
So how do you know which categories to choose? Well, the best way to find out is to ask your customers. Go to your very best customers and ask them why they choose to buy from you, why they have remained customers, and what they like most and least about your product, service, etc. The feedback you get should give you a pretty clear idea about which categories will be most attractive to the prospects you really want.
Once you've chosen which categories you want to use to position your product, don't feel that you're wedded to them forever. If you find that your positioning just isn't working well for you, you can always go back and pick out different categories. You may also need to make some changes if your company has implemented changes in its products or its messaging.
It's actually fairly common for companies to shift their positioning in response to a change in the market. For example, McDonald's originally positioned itself as faster and cheaper; however, in response to a change in consumer preferences, it's repositioned itself as the better, "healthier" choice.