Selling Yourself Short?

How to stand out without lowering your prices.
by Jeff Mowatt

     Are the products or services you offer perceived by potential customers as being mere “commodities”—(more or less the same as the others offered by other florists)? When that happens, customers revert to the easiest differentiator—price.

     In your marketplace or online, there is likely someone offering similar products or services for lower prices than yours. And with the Internet, it’s easy for consumers to find them.

     When your products and services are indeed different but consumers don’t get that and put you in the same category as everyone else, you can change their perceptions by changing the way you describe what you do. Your goal is to get a potential customer thinking, “If I don’t explore this flower shop further, I could be missing a good thing.”

Your own worst enemy
     How would you describe what it is that you do for a living? Most of us automatically “commoditize” our job. We say, “I’m an insurance broker,” “I’m a personal financial advisor”—or “I’m a florist.”

     Imagine giving that type of label to what you do to a potential customer at an event of some sort. The words “I’m a … ” imply that there are other people who do exactly what you do. In other words, you sabotage your uniqueness with your first two words.

Be a pain reliever
     Rather than describing yourself in terms of a generic label, refer instead to the ultimate benefit you deliver. Keep in mind that there are two ways to describe benefits: One is the pleasure gained, and the other is the pain avoided.

     A financial advisor, for example, might describe his or her service as “helping people retire in comfort” (pleasure gained) or “preventing people from having to work until they die because they can’t afford to retire” (pain avoided). Interestingly, when it comes to spending money, consumers are more often motivated by avoiding pain than gaining pleasure.

     The idea, of course, is not to ramble on about what you do; that sounds boorish and pushy. Instead, say only enough to pique the listener’s curiosity.

The Customer Turn-off
     You’ve probably heard networking “experts” state that you’re supposed to have an “elevator pitch” (a 30-second commercial ready to recite). The problem is that when you’re talking with smart consumers, the 30-second infomercial sounds phony and contrived, and it turns them off more than it piques their interest.

     Instead, when someone asks you what you do for a living, reply with a simple one-line ultimate benefit, such as, “I help people convey sentiments and express their emotions.” With this answer, you’re more likely to stimulate the other person’s curiosity. His or her next question naturally becomes, “How do you do that?” Now you’ve been invited to describe your products and services in a more compelling way.

Getting into their heads
     At this point in the conversation, you can describe what you do with an example that the customer can relate to. An easy way is start with the words, “You know how … ” Then complete the sentence explaining how your products or services fix a common problem.

     For example, when the person asks you how you “help people convey sentiments and express their emotions,” you might respond with something like, “You know how it’s sometimes difficult to find the right way, the right time or the right place to say ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘I’m thinking about you,’ ‘Thank you’ or even ‘I love you’—especially if you’re far away? Well, flowers can express what you might not be able to, often in a more eloquent and memorable manner, and we can get them delivered quickly, too, if necessary.”

     By representing your profession and your products and services this way, you will differentiate yourself in the minds of consumers. You will stand out as offering a one-of-a-kind product or service. And price will become less of a source of comparison.

     The beauty of the relevant example is that it applies to the other person’s circumstances. That’s why it’s helpful to start any conversation by finding out about the other person. It also happens to make you a more interesting conversationalist because you’re discussing most people’s favorite topic—themselves.

     The bottom line is the next time you need to set yourself apart from the competition—beyond just lowering prices—change the way you talk about what you do for a living.

     This article is based on the bestselling book, Influence with Ease, by customer service strategist and certified professional speaker Jeff Mowatt. To obtain copy of this book or to inquire about engaging Mr. Mowatt for your team, visit or call (800) JMowatt (566-9288). 

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