Establish the Difference to Sell the Difference

A client of mine sells HVAC services to commercial, medical, and industrial facilities.  They’re in Houston, a hot market in more ways than one.

Their hourly rate for service calls can be 50% higher than the competition.  How do they compete with that?  In a strategy discussion I recently had with one of their salespeople I suggested 3 things, and in this order:

  • Establish the differences
  • Link the differences to ‘what matters’
  • Ask which company you’d prefer working with

Establish the differences – My Guy was about to meet with the customer’s finance person.  He’s already gotten a quote from a competitor.  My Guy’s rate is 50% higher than the competitor’s hourly rate.  On paper Mr Finance sees only one difference between the two companies – 50% in the hourly rate.

I told My Guy to establish the differences between the competitive company and his company.  Make sure Mr Finance knows what makes up the 50% rate delta.  Establishing the difference isn’t running through a list of features or credentials that you’re impressed with and hope that he’s impressed with.  Establishing the difference is also not the same as trying to convince Mr Finance that your difference is better.  Not yet. It’s just different.

My client is different in the process it follows for diagnosing the situation and recommending a solution.  For Mr Finance’s company my client’s process pinpointed the problem in half the time as the competitor and also found areas of attention and concern that could need addressing later.  The competitor did not uncover these issues.  It’s different but why is it important?  Here’s where it gets fun.

Link the difference to ‘what matters’ to the customer– Mr Finance doesn’t know HVAC, but he knows he spends a lot of money sometimes with HVAC companies.  He likely has three things that matter – and this is how he is evaluated.  Plan well, budget appropriately, and avoid financial surprises.  By alerting Mr Finance to potential problem issues My Guy has helped Mr Finance meet his three objectives.   My Guy has also given Mr Finance a reason to advocate for him.  Before, it was easy to look better paying a $90 rate instead of a $135 rate.  Now, he can look better by showing his boss that he’s planning and budgeting and avoiding surprises better, all important to running the business.

Has the competitor done that?  No.  Why not? Either they didn’t have the skillset to find the other issues or they found them and chose not to tell.   Which leads us to the final step.

Ask which company you’d prefer working with– I cautioned My Guy to not bring an attitude with this question, like it’s a rhetorical question with an obvious answer.  I said don’t be surprised if Mr Finance says he appreciates the differences but can’t pay for them.  If this is Mr Finance’s conclusion then he’s decided that that he prefers taking the higher risk with the competitor who doesn’t help him with planning and budgeting.  Politely he should say that’s too bad that we’re not a good fit.

Some customers and some deals are not a good fit.  I’m not a Harley guy.  I’m more of a BMW guy.  I prefer craft wheat beers to big production lagers and pilsners.  My Guy has to have the stomach to walk away – as long as he’s established the differences well.

Can’t wait to hear how this sales call goes.  I’ll let you know.


Good Selling,


Mark Sellers

Author The Funnel Principle Named a Top Ten Sales Book by Selling Power

Author (soon to be released!) Blindspots: The Hidden Killer of Sales Coaching

Created The BuyCycle Funnel

Founder Breakthrough Sales Performance









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