Your Sustainable Competitive Advantage

Livestock Sales

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A competitive advantage is obtained by implementing value-creating strategies, not simultaneously being implemented by any current competitor. These strategies need to be rare, valuable, and non-substitutable. These competitive advantages become sustainable when they are not easily copied and, thus, can be maintained over a long period of time.

Over my 25+ years of experience in animal health, many companies have obtained a competitive advantage through the introduction of a new product, a new service, a new promotion, etc. All of those were relatively short lived as they were easily duplicated and/or had a relatively low cost of entry. Even those with patent protection have a limited advantage before generics start eroding market share.

However, during that same period of time, I have noticed there is one competitive advantage that is sustainable and it is as unique as you are. In fact, YOU ARE your sustainable competitive advantage.

The question then becomes how can you leverage that across your territory to expand your success? Here are three key performance characteristics that exist where you are the primary supplier and remain undeveloped in the remaining accounts in your territory.

Your approach
No one likes to be sold. In fact, when customers feel they have been sold they usually experience buyer’s remorse. However, customers love it when they are assisted in making a buying decision. So begin with the mindset that your role is to help each customer make a well-informed, committed decision whether or NOT to buy. Note the emphasis on NOT. This mindset requires that you are willing to accept a well-informed NO as readily as a well-informed YES. It will help if you think of that NO actually being a NO for now.

Your reaction
Do you give you customer 100 percent attention by suspending all other activity, including your own point of view at the moment in the conversation?

Do you prove you understand the customer’s situation, or do you simply say “I understand”? Your actions speak louder than your words.

Is your response appropriate for the moment, or are you going 80 mph with your hair on fire when your customer is doing 20 mph in a school zone?

And most of all, do you respect your customer’s right to a different point of view at that moment in the conversation? Respect is earned by sales leaders by giving it away first.
Your solutions
Are your solutions customized to your individual customer needs? Most distributor reps have the same list of products and services, each with multiple features, functions and benefits. Your customers buy when you customize your solution to their needs by only mentioning those benefits that are important to that customer. That shows you listened, took them seriously and helped them make decisions that will add to their success.

So your challenge is as follows. Where you are the primary supplier, verify that you are exhibiting these characteristics during your interactions with those customers. Where you are on the outside looking in, change your strategy to insure you are consistently demonstrating these characteristics in those interactions.

You are your sustainable competitive advantage to some of your customers and you hold the key to extending that advantage to other potential customers in your territory.