Differentiators vs Features - Stop Bad Pitches

Author: 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 Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox
Get Video Surveillance News In Your Inbox

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 (45): PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Hikvision Hiring 50, Direct Out of College, Sales People on Feb 20, 2017
Hikvision is hiring 50, direct out of college, field sales people across the country. This is the next major expansion for the Chinese...
Hikvision Silicon Valley and Canada R&D Expansion on Feb 15, 2017
After massive growth in their sales team, Hikvision is now planning to add two new R&D centers in North America. In this report we examine...
Integrator's Top Selling Cameras 2017 on Feb 13, 2017
8 manufacturers accounted for 80% of the top selling camera lines for ~150 integrator responses. This report demonstrates which brands integrators...
Hitachi Taking On Security Industry on Feb 09, 2017
Hitachi, bigger than Sony and Panasonic overall, with $89 billion USD 2016 total revenue, is expanding into the security industry. They are...
Dahua USA To Triple To 200 Employees on Feb 08, 2017
Months ago, Dahua USA reported 65 employees. Now, by the end of 2017, the company plans to triple to 200 employees, becoming one of the largest...
Axis Favorability Results on Feb 03, 2017
For many years, Axis sold the most IP cameras but, with the rise of Hikvision and Dahua, that has changed. How would that impact Axis...
Struggling Speco OEMs Dahua on Jan 31, 2017
Many incumbent manufacturers have been hard hit by the expansion of Chinese manufacturers. Once fairly large US provider Speco has been one of...
Hikvision Removed From US GSA Sales on Jan 31, 2017
The US Government's GSA has removed Hikvision manufactured products for sale following IPVM's criticism of Hikvision being listed as 'Made In...
IPVM For PR / Marketing People on Jan 25, 2017
This post helps PR and Marketing people understand and productively work with IPVM (as much as possible given our independent, often critical,...
Arecont Lowest Favorability Results on Jan 25, 2017
Given Arecont is 3 time defending integrator choice for worst camera manufacturer, it should be little surprise they had the lowest score in the...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Hikvision Leads Multi-Manufacturer Sales Promo on Feb 21, 2017
Earlier this month, Hikvision launched new 'super value' kits, with 40% discounts, and now Hikvision is offering another promo, but this time they...
Washington DC MPD's Surveillance Equipment on Feb 21, 2017
The Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department's surveillance system was hacked in January 2017. Two immediate questions were: Whose...
Hikvision Ezviz Mini 360 Plus - $80 Autotracking Camera Tested on Feb 21, 2017
Autotracking, integrated IR, local storage, full HD, cloud access: $80. That is the claim of Hikvision EZVIZ's new Mini 360 Plus. But for this...
Lenel Improving Customer Support on Feb 21, 2017
Lenel has faced significant criticism recently (see Lenel Partners Angry, Lenel Does Not Care, Worst Access Control 2016, Lenel Favorability...
'Dirty': Hikvision Attacks Genetec on Feb 20, 2017
Hikvision is angry at the growing public awareness that Hikvision is owned by the Chinese government. They took aim at Genetec,...
Directory of Alarm Company Brokers on Feb 20, 2017
Selling an RMR based business, such as alarm company, can be highly profitable, with acquisition prices of 36 to 48x RMR (equivalent to 3 to 4x...
Hikvision Hiring 50, Direct Out of College, Sales People on Feb 20, 2017
Hikvision is hiring 50, direct out of college, field sales people across the country. This is the next major expansion for the Chinese...
Simplisafe is 'Blowing The Doors Off' on Feb 17, 2017
The company alarm dealers love to hate, Simplisafe, is 'blowing the doors off' according to Michael Barnes, one of the top financial advisors in...
Hikvision OEM DDNS Devices To 'Lose Remote Access' on Feb 17, 2017
The fallout of Hikvision's DDNS discontinuation is expanding, this time hitting OEM partner Supercircuits, who reports that on June 30th: The...
Milestone: "Easy Money Days Are Over" on Feb 17, 2017
Contrary to IPVM's criticisms, Milestone has reaffirmed that glory days remain. But they admit that they 'easy money days are over': Are the...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact