Micro Management

C-level Relationship Selling Requires Differentiating Your Company to Your Customers’ C-level Managers

Sam Manfer asked:

Customers choose vendors based on the perception that something important is better from one company than another. “Better” simply boils down to three (3) factors – more benefits, less risks, and/or least effort.

Many believe selection is based on price. I say not really. A “better” deal – yes, not necessarily price. Theoretically if the customer perceives no difference between the two companies, then the choice does go to price. I say theoretically because there are always differences.

The bigger question, however, is who’s doing the differentiating. That’s what ultimately counts – and what’s the important something s/he is differentiating?

Macro Differentiation

Macro applies to the marketing world. The main focus is company image (branding) and generating leads to the company. Examples are Nordstrom’s Service and Volvo’s Safety. Service and Safety are how they have branded themselves. They are known for this and people are drawn to them for these qualities. Macro differentiation requires lots of publicity, time, constant repetition, substance, and follow-through by all employees. Management must mandate, reinforce, recognize, reward, and chastise to insure it happens.

Micro Differentiation

Micro applies to selling. Individuals on the same project want different things. This is why business to business selling is complex. You have to show all the people involved you have his or her “special it’s” and you can deliver the “it’s” better than any other competitive alternative. This is micro differentiation. It is specific to each project and each person. Micro differentiation requires interviewing to understand and build the perfect vision for each voter. Then offering your fit to each in a way that the competition can’t come behind you and say they can do that also. Sales people must be disciplined to meet with many decision-makers and eventually get to the top dog. Management must mandate, reinforce, recognize, reward, and chastise to insure it happens.


Joe, the maintenance manager, may want good service (defined in his specific terms) and Mike, the operations manager, may want high quality (defined in his terms). Both may be interested in the other’s desire. Both also want compliance to the general specification written by John from Engineering. Joe is very sensitive to the kind of service offered, and may be willing to pay more for it. This is not the same as Mike’s focus – quality. To complicate matters further, both individuals may want what each thinks their boss Al wants. Their perceptions of the Al’s desires may be correct or incorrect, and will always be tainted by their own desires.

So the solution to this complexity is to interview all parties to learn what will win Joe’s vote, Mike’s vote, and most importantly, Al’s vote. Then, the presentations must show each person he will get more of his benefits, with less risk, and less effort than any competitors’ offering.


Showing micro differentiation in a proposal or presentation is a shot in the dark if you don’t know the persuading factors for the most powerful people and those that strongly influence him/her. This is why one company appears on the surface to look the same as the other when addressing specs. Each is answering the black and white specs without the understanding of why they were included and who wants what. However, sales people in an effort to differentiate include everything. So the document is voluminous and nobody of importance reads it. Presentations become long and boring, so the important people leave or don’t show.

Touting macro differentiation to win the votes is another shot in the dark. If the decision-makers – especially the most powerful feel that all the competitors have enough safety built in and service by every one is satisfactory, then neither Volvo nor Nordstrom will have a competitive advantage.

Use your macro message to build image and generate leads. Once you have a suspect, learn the personal, colorful important factors for each person. Then skew the delivery towards the powerful and influentials’ important factors, “better” to win. Now that’s how to differentiate to win the sale and follow-on sales?

And now I invite you to learn more

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