In sales, one of the fundamental questions you need to ask yourself is, “Why should someone buy from me rather than my competitors?” Or indeed, “Why should a prospect do anything at all?”

If your business is a “same as” or perceived as a commodity, why would someone choose you?

Answer: It’s all in the perception.

You must position yourself as unique in the eyes of your prospects and clients.

How? By creating your Unique Buying Advantage (UBA).

What’s a UBA? You’ve probably heard of a USP or Unique Selling Proposition. I prefer to think of it in from my client’s point of view – what’s in it for them – so UBA is their Unique Buying Advantage.

Your Unique Buying Advantage is the advantage the buyer gets when buying your product or service. It’s a distinct, appealing idea that sets your business apart from every “me-too” competitor and quite literally drives qualified prospects to your door.

There are two things to consider. One is the Advantage to your customer and the other is the Uniqueness of the product or its availability.

We’ll go through some examples, but first…

Understand that none of your prospects actually care about what you do. They don’t care about your degrees, accreditations or whether you’ve appeared on some talk show. Sure, talk shows can provide great exposure, but at ultimately…

The ONLY thing they care about is what you can do for them!

And remember, emotions rule.

You are NOT selling your product or service.

You are selling the emotional benefits your customers will experience once they’ve purchased from you.

As we speak, Barbara is in Switzerland visiting family. And as it happens, she had a great experience with a shoe store in Bern over the weekend.

This is her story… Take it away, Barbara.

Bern (the capital of Switzerland) is the city I knew from my childhood, this is where we went as teenagers and adolescence when we wanted to smell the “big smoke”. And I ended up working there for about 3 years or so.bern

I’ve always liked shoes and it is easy for me to find shoe shops with a difference.

Not that I understand shoes and how they’re produced but I understand that I like a particular shoe because of the way it looks and I can detect quality as well.

Last Saturday, I decided to take a trip to Bern, I hadn’t been there for at least 5 years and it’s always interesting to go back to a place you’ve lived. To experience the sameness as well as the differences.

Now, a lot has changed in Bern and not everything for the better. The old town is listed as a UN heritage site and the arcades are quite something. (Think of some of the old arcades in Melbourne – expect these are 100’s of years old.)

New shops have opened, old ones have closed or have clung on and are trying to make a living.

On top of the challenges retail is experiencing worldwide, the centre of Bern is being dug up because they have to replace pipes, cables and more. Remember, Bern is an ancient city; the first stones were laid back in 1191.

The disruption for everybody along this strip is significant, and I can well imagine that some businesses are suffering.

I had forgotten about Schuh Gade as a shoe retailer, the shop is small and somewhat hidden in one of the smaller side arcades, but as I saw the sign I decided to pay them a visit to see what they had on the shelf.

To my delight, it was the same shop, and the shoes they had on the shelf were different, of good quality and the prices were very reasonable given the quality.

I got talking to an elderly gentleman, who turned out to be the owner.

The first thing I asked him was whether his business was suffering because of the digging that was going outside.

To my utter surprise he said that this had no impact whatsoever on the business and that his business was doing very well thank you very much.

Now this really came as a surprise I expected him to moan and complain, but far from it.

The conversation that followed went something along the lines of:

“How do you keep getting clients coming back? Do you regularly communicate with your clients, emails, phone calls?”

“We don’t. We’ve been here for 40 years, same spot, and same location. Our clients know us, they know that we’re different. Look around, in the other shoe shops they all sell the same stuff.

We only sell Italian made shoes, and we only work with small Italian manufacturers we’ve known for decades.

We’re not cheap, nor do we want sell cheap shoes. We are different we want to be different and our customers love us for it.”

He told me that he’d travel to Italy 20 times per year, not only twice like most other shoe sellers, and that he would visit each manufacturer and had built up relationships over decades.

He’s 70, loves what he does and says that he’s happy with what he’s achieved in life, and doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone any more.

To me this encounter was a delight, not only did I buy a pair of shoes, yes I know, one day I will be able to Barbara Shoescompete with Imelda Marcos, but what this conversation brought home to me was the following.

This business owner has core values in business from which I think we can all learn a great deal:

  1. If you want to stand out from the crowd, dare to be different and stick to what you believe in. (e.g. good quality at a fair price, combined with excellent customer service)

    The sales assistant, a very well groomed lady, in her late 50’s or early 60’s, was very professional and great at serving the customers, nothing was too hard or too difficult.

  2. Be consistent. In his case this is same location for 40+ years, his shoes are consistently excellent in quality, and staff have stayed with him for up to 25 years.
  3. It is all about relationships:
    • With your customer (they know what they get and keep coming back).
      I met a friend in Bern who’d bought a pair of boots for $500 five years ago. The boots still look as if they’re new. So quality counts!
    • With your manufacturers, talk to them, don’t just order. Visit them, appreciate what it is they produce for you and your customers.
    • Keep your employees happy and appreciate what it is they do for you and your customers. This is what creates a healthy business. It’s not the price – it is what I get for my money (value).
      • In this particular case, 100% Italian made shoes. Did you know that if the upper shoe is produced say in China, and the sole is glued on in Italy, you can stamp the product to have been “made in Italy”? Well, his shoes are 100% made in Italy. And it shows.
      • Their shoes that are different – all the other shops around had the same old same oh – there was nothing differentiating one from the next.
      • Value for money because they’re only slightly more expensive than your run of the mill shoe shop around the corner.
      • Dare to be different, not for the sake of it but for your own sake, as long as it’s compatible with your business values, and for your customers.

I asked the owner if he was wondering about the “interrogation” and he smiled. He was happy to chat and proud of his shop.   I told him we’d feature him in our newsletter as a shining example of someone who provides an outstanding UBA.

Schuh Gade doesn’t have a website. Nor could he remember his email address off hand.

And while some might think he’s a bit old fashioned in his approach, he has a thriving business built up on solid relationships with his clients, suppliers and staff. A true win, win, win!

Technology is not everything.

Thanks Barbara!

Wrapping up, remember the following:

  • Building strong relationships is the key to success.
  • The old saying, “I don’t care how much you know, until I know how much you care” is as true now as it has ever been.
  • And finally, as my Grandmother used to say, “Manners maketh the man”.
    Something I’ve never forgotten. In an age when people don’t return phone calls, say thank you and just rush about wrapped up in their own stuff, it’s very easy to stand out from the crowd by acknowledging people, being polite and doing favours without expecting anything in return.

Barbara & Rashid.

P.S. If you would like help developing your Unique Buying Advantage, our Two Heads programs are an ideal way to start. I guarantee we will come up with new ways to cement your client relationships so you make more money. Call us on (02) 9499-7958 to get started.

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