Did you leave it at the house? Is it under the couch? Where could it be? What am I talking about? Your competitive difference that’s what! Many of the contractors I assist assume they’re better than their competitors. When we drive down to see what exactly makes them different we tend to hit a common conclusion, job performance. Sounds good but in reality a high number of contractors usually lead with performance. In the eyes of the customer, if performance is equal then the focus shifts to price. The reason this is the case is that it takes time to determine exactly what truly separates one contractor from another. A true separating factor has to be quantifiable to the customer. If they don’t perceive any additional value in using you, they probably will choose bottom dollar for their project. Ask yourself, “What does make us different?” Make it an honest self analysis. Here are some things that are not separating aspects:

1. Performance: This is the ante. Clients expect all contractors know how to perform.

2. Good Personnel: Everyone promotes that they’ve hired the best talent available.

3. Guarantee of Work: The expectation is you’ll stand behind the work you do.

4. Equipment to do the Job: Customers believe you’ll have the tools or get them to do the project.

5. Longevity: Unless your over 100 years in business, don’t bother promoting it. Many firms fit in the 10-70 year old range.

These items are the basics to even come to the table and bid. It’s incredibly lazy to lead with these points. Finding what makes you different is not an easy exercise. Thus, many contractors never do it. As you sit back wondering why your competitor consistently gets work while you’re fighting and clawing for each job you get, remember this piece. So what are some true points of difference to promote? Well hopefully it varies from firm to firm. Unique aspects of your business need to be marketed to the customer base. They also need to be carried by your sales personnel. It is critical to have the message consistent between the two. Here a couple suggestions:

1. You: That’s right! You! You are one of a kind. What do you bring to the table? Education? Personality? Personal experience? Whatever it is, sell it!

2. Exclusivity: Any products, techniques or software that you solely have, are very attractive to a client. It actually gives you something to sell.

3. Innovative Expertise: Are you specialized in green building, advanced technology or restoration capabilities? If so, let people know.

4. Certifications: Some are worthless but right now DBE, MBE, WBE, LEED and alike are hot items. Maximize these qualifications.

5. Performance History: What projects have you done that are unique and display your range of capabilities? Clients want the best.

Taking the time to do an internal evaluation with key staff members to find these types of differences can give you a bit of an edge in the bidding process. Once you recognize your client’s buying hot buttons, you can push them with these points of separation. Of course the examples I’ve listed are not the only points. The key is to answer this question: “Can my competitor make the same claim?’ If so, then it’s not a true separating factor and won’t move the client closer to using you. The majority of those that read this article will completely blow this off. They’ll continue to say, “we give top performance in the field’, then the competitor says, “we give super performance in the field”, and still another states, “we give super duper performance in the field”. Get my point?

It is imperative in such a competitive environment that you gain distance between you and your opponents on bids. You have to give the client a reason, not just to use you, but pay more to use you! What a novel concept. Think of the cell phone in your pocket. Why did you choose that particular phone? Was it the features, value, or signal strength? Or did you simply say, “give me any phone, just make sure it’s the cheapest”? Then why would you present your business in the same fashion as a competitor? Are you not worth the consideration of a cell phone?