Differentiators vs Features - Stop Bad Pitches

By: John Honovich, Published on Nov 06, 2015

Most sales pitches are bad.

Most confuse differentiators and features.

We receive many pitches and the most fundamental problem we see, over and over again, is that companies confuse differentiators with features, even when we explicitly request them to tell us their differentiators.

In this note, we explain the key differences, provide examples for video surveillance products and offer guidance on how to radically improve one's pitches.

Key Difference

A feature is what your product can do. A differentiator is what your product can do that few or none of your strongest competitors can.

Listing all your features, which is the most common technique we see used, makes a pitcher seem just like every other product and does nothing to stand out. Buyers have too many options and can too easily find something that has the same basic list of features as the one being pitched to them.

The key is to focus / lead with those features that are uncommon and that help show the value you provide that others cannot.

Strongest Competitors

One common mistake is to focus on features that average or lagging competitors lack. This might make a sales / marketer feel good but most prospects know well or will be called on by the top competitors. Pitchers need to make sure their claimed differentiators are not offered by their strongest competitors.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

The strongest competitors are usually easy to determine as these are the companies that a company faces the most (in 2015, in North America, for cameras, Axis and Hikvision are clearly two, for VMSes, Milestone and Exacq (plus Genetec for anyone targeting larger systems) are common and for 'solution sales' Avigilon).

Real Differentiators

Another common mistake is to claim a differentiator that is simply factually untrue. We regularly see pitchers say we do X but Axis / Milestone / whomever does not, when they simply did not realize that those companies did the same. Pitchers lose credibility doing this. A lot of this is simply due to ignorance but if you are a professional, it is your job to know these things. Surprisingly, we see even some product managers lack basic knowledge of their competitors.

We talked to a VMS manufacturer recently who claimed connecting to cameras via RTSP was a differentiator, which obviously is not as RTSP is broadly supported by VMSes. Even a 5 second Google search of 'RTSP Exacq' or 'RTSP Genetec', etc. easily shows that.

Meaningful Differentiators

One of the toughest challenges in picking differentiators is choosing ones that are meaningful. Many times pitchers pick minuscule differences, often UI variances or extremely uncommon features. While it is appropriate to include those, too often pitchers focus too hard on them and expect that to alone justify picking their product.

If you lay out cameras slightly different than your competitors or use a vertical slider instead of a horizontal one, unless you have qualified that the person who are talking to has these as hot button issues, chances are it will make no difference in selecting you vs your rival.

Changing Differentiators

Pitchers need to stay up on the market. What was a differentiator 2 years ago may not be a differentiator now. For example, in 2013, Axis could brag about Lightfinder and super low light performance. Now, they do it at their own risk of being laughed at. The market has simply caught up and essentially all their major competitors have equivalent or better, including their low cost Chinese rivals.

On the other hand, right now Axis has a big differentiator with Zipstream. Others are following and probably in 2 years this will be commonplace but right not they have a clear advantage on bandwidth / storage efficiency on most everyone.

Multi-imagers are in the midst of a transformation from Arecont 'unique' offering to a limited number of major suppliers. This will shift the battle for differentiation from simply having multi-imager to what types of multi-imager you have (resolution, varifocal, low light, WDR, frame rate, etc.)

Don't Have Any?

Once companies really focus on picking and promoting true differentiators, they will often find that they have very few real, meaningful differentiators. At that point, sales people need to differentiate on their own abilities, i.e., how charismatic they are, or how helpful they are, etc. However, companies need to look hard at themselves and figure out ways to develop actual differentiators (this is especially critical right now on the camera market as Hikvision et al., are driving prices down for generally solid (read: competitive) products).

Suckers and Features

There is some hope for feature based selling. With the Internet making it so easy to see what else is out there, it is harder and harder to sell on generic features but there are always some naive people who will take your feature list, not bother to compare it, and pay whatever you ask. But it is not a large segment and is one clearly on decline so be careful and try to focus more on actual differentiators.

Beware People Being Nice

The other issue is that many people do not want to tell people to their face that their differentiators are not real or that they do not care. This might make the pitcher feel good ("Hey he smiled when I said that") but you still risk the person not buying because you are not convincing them.

What is your Differentiators?

In the comments, I am happy to discuss / debate what your product differentiators are. Throw them out and let's see what I and your IPVM member peers think.

 

Comments (44) : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Knightscope Sells Just 1 Net New Robot In 6 Months on Oct 04, 2019
For the first half of 2019, US government records show that Knightscope has sold just 1 net new robots ('machines-in-network'), inching up from 52...
Hikvision ColorVu is Smart Marketing on Oct 03, 2019
Hikvision ColorVu (see IPVM test results) is smart marketing, a lesson to be learned by competitors and a rising trend. Inside this note, we...
Critiquing Carnegie's AI Surveillance Paper on Sep 25, 2019
The Carnegie Endowment has issued an ambitious paper on the Global Expansion of AI Surveillance. While its aim is applaudable, the paper has...
RealNetworks SAFR Facial Recognition Profile on Sep 25, 2019
RealNetworks entered the surveillance market by giving away their analytics to schools for free, and is now targeting large commercial users with...
Directory of 70 Video Surveillance Startups on Sep 18, 2019
This directory provides a list of video surveillance startups to help you see and research what companies are new or not yet broadly known. 2019...
Schmode is Back, Aims To Turn Boulder AI Into Giant on Sep 16, 2019
One of the most influential and controversial executives in the past decade is back. Bryan Schmode ascended and drove the hypergrowth of Avigilon...
ASIS GSX 2019 Final Show Report on Sep 12, 2019
IPVM went to Chicago for ASIS GSX 2019, with many exhibitors disappointed about traffic and the exhibitor schedule changing next year. However,...
US Government Ban of Dahua, Hikvision, Huawei Takes Effect Now on Aug 13, 2019
The 'prohibition on use or procurement' of Dahua, Hikvision and Huawei products and 'essential components' take effect today, August 13, 2019, one...
Proactive CCTV "Only Affordable Video Archiving Solution" Profile on Aug 12, 2019
Proactive CCTV is claiming to offer "the only affordable video archiving solution on the market", reducing the storage typically required for H.265...
Stanley Makes "Multi-Million Dollar Investment" Into Banned Hikvision Products on Aug 09, 2019
Just days from the US government ban going into effect, US mega-corporation Stanley has dramatically increased its imports of banned Hikvision...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Axis HD Analog Encoder Tested on Oct 11, 2019
Two years after declaring "Everything is IP", Axis has released their first HD analog encoder, the P7304, with support for AHD, CVI, TVI, and SD...
Dahua Celebrates PRC 70th Wearing Communist Party Hammer and Sickle on Oct 11, 2019
Dahua celebrated the PRC's 70th anniversary with a video of various Dahua employees wearing China Communist Party hammer and sickle pins as shown...
Last Chance - Register Now - October 2019 IP Networking Course on Oct 10, 2019
Last Chance - Register Now - Fall 2019 IP Networking Course. The course starts next week. This is the only networking course designed...
Network Optix NxWitness 4.0 Tested on Oct 10, 2019
Network Optix released Nx Witness 4.0, proclaiming new features like a deep learning analytics metadata SDK, increased H.265 support, and UX...
HID Fingerprint Reader Tested on Oct 09, 2019
HID has released their first access reader to use Lumidigm optical sensors, that touts it 'works with anyone, anytime, anywhere'. We bought and...
ONVIF Suspends Dahua and Hikvision on Oct 09, 2019
Dahua and Hikvision have been 'suspended', and effectively expelled, from ONVIF, immediately following US sanctions being placed on the 2 mega...
Hikvision And Dahua Sanctioned For Human Rights Abuses on Oct 07, 2019
In a groundbreaking move that will have drastic consequences across the video surveillance market, Dahua and Hikvision have been sanctioned by the...
Avigilon H5A Analytic Cameras Tested on Oct 07, 2019
Avigilon has released its H5A analytic cameras, claiming to "detect more objects with greater accuracy even in crowded scenes." We tested the...
Crisis At China's Largest VMS Provider, Netposa, Now State-Controlled on Oct 07, 2019
NetPosa, which bills itself as the PRC's largest VMS provider, is in a crisis. The firm is pursuing huge unpaid bills from clients, and its...
Knightscope Sells Just 1 Net New Robot In 6 Months on Oct 04, 2019
For the first half of 2019, US government records show that Knightscope has sold just 1 net new robots ('machines-in-network'), inching up from 52...