More than ever before, your customers and clients have an increasing array of choices that potentially compete with your products and services. Rare is the company these days that is truly the sole provider of a product.

Therefore, it is critical to set your company apart from your competitors. This is frequently difficult to do, but there are some ways to accomplish it.

First, be honest and transparent. It’s amazing how many companies aren’t. It’s critical to be upfront about what you can and can’t do and to be able to understandably describe your competitive differentiations. When companies are in a “selling mode,” it’s easy to slip into an overblown description of what you do and what you are best at. The downside of this selling trap, of course, is that you create disappointment and erode trust on the part of your customers, and yes, they go away (in search of a more honest, transparent partner who can actually deliver what they promise).

Secondly, it is important to really listen to your prospective customers, rather than jumping in and trying to close the sale too quickly. If you deprive yourself of the considerable advantages that come from truly hearing what your customers’ issues and aspirations are, you can frequently miss the mark in terms of what they want and need from you.

Thirdly, explain the entire “life cycle” of what it will be like to work with your company. Go beyond just product features and success stories with other customers, and allow your prospects to envision what a true relationship with your business could look like, beyond the actual transaction.

Fourth, explain how you address customer service issues, as well as customer complaints. When things go wrong or products don’t perform up to expectations, how do you handle that? Let your potential customers understand how you would address unexpected issues or complaints. Provide them with an actual window into your company’s philosophy regarding customer service and responsiveness. Be completely transparent about your standards and how your company incorporates them into your day-to-day interactions.

Fifth, let them know that you seek out and value their feedback regarding their specific customer experiences, as well as any recommendations they may have for improving it. Fold that into conversations about what you value and how you live out those values both internally and externally.

Finally, assure them that winning their business is not a “one and done” proposition – that your company is as interested in performing and exceeding expectations as it is in winning the new business and closing new sales. Building trust and assuring transparency is frequently just as important as product features and innovation.

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