Strategic Human Capital Insights

Waging the Sales Battle: The Differentiation Weapon

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL PRODUCT LEVELS: Where the sales battle is won or lost!

Two hands fighting and breaking a rock into small piecesThis is the fourth blog in in our Sales & Business Development blog series.  In case you missed the other blogs, you can view them here.

Your product / solution is not one-dimensional.  The complex relationship selling process often makes your product elastic, meaning different things to different people in your client buying center.  When you think about your product, think about the multi-dimensional product levels from basic commodity to differentiated product.


This is your product at its most basic level. Without commodity-level product, you can’t show up in the market.

Example:  You are selling a computer.  The computer has very basic software packages included!

Product Level Check List  

  • Competitors - Many
  • Price Pressure - Enormous
  • Ability to Differentiate - None to very little
  • Ability to Survive - Vulnerable to the next low-price provider


This is where competitive product positioning begins and where the sales battle will be waged and either won or lost!

Example: The computer has advanced software packages with customizable high-level interfaces that are applicable to the client's processes.

To differentiate with high-level impact, here are four key points:

  1. Know your client
  2. Know your competition
  3. Determine how to position your product / solution into the client’s known and mutually acknowledged value proposition.
  4. From the client’s value proposition, actively and tangibly pull everything together for the client, position product and confirm.

Product Level Check List

  • Number of Competitors - 0 to 5
  • Price Pressure - Very little (price mitigated by known client value proposition)
  • Ability to Differentiate - Absolutely  
  • Ability to Survive - Yes, with thinking, listening and problem solving

Differentiation Risks

Competitive Understanding
Risk #1 - You assume differentiation without proper knowledge of the competition.  You go in with what you consider a differentiated product and the client says, ”so does everyone else”.

Client Understanding
Risk #2 - You assume that, because you think the product is differentiated, it is.  Remember, the client establishes value. While you may have what you consider a differentiated product, they may not value it.  Your product is only purely differentiated until it walks outside your office doors.  After that it is subject to the pressures and stresses of the competitive market place.  Differentiation has nothing to do with what you think, but how the market receives and evaluates your product.

Now go and differentiate! 

To better understand how we approach these multi-dimensional product levels,
 I invite you to learn more about our Sales & Business Development program as part of the Phoenix Strategic Performance Institute. This program helps you to strategically align your sales process to accelerate the relationship sales process, creating corporate growth and building strategic value.

Explore the Sales & Business Development Program

Topics: Business Development

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

Joanne T. Flynn heads up the human capital advisory group, Phoenix Strategic Performance, Inc. Previously, she was a Managing Director with Phoenix Group International and was Vice President / Director of Global Learning and Development at Goldman, Sachs for nine years. Joanne works with organizations as they face global growth and competitive challenges. She works with her clients to be both externally focused and internally responsive. With her unique background, she aligns competitive strategic efforts with related internal organizational leadership challenges. With the benefit of her career-long focus, Joanne contributes the unique insight of aligning strategy to internal organizational structure and process. She focuses on human capital relative to strategic initiatives, accelerated business growth, value creation, and business development. Joanne holds a Master of Arts degree in Business Management from the University of Oklahoma. In addition, she holds a double degree major in History and German from St. Elizabeth University, as well as certificates from a variety of leading universities and professional training and development organizations. Joanne has recently published her latest book, Accelerating Business Success, The Human Asset Management Strategy.

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