I used to be CTO for a startup that ran payments for small businesses.  We were asked to white label our product (i.e. use their branding instead of ours) by a major credit card company.  Within a few months, we got called by another.  And another.  We eventually white labeled the solution for three major credit card/financial companies.  And each one touted their uniqueness, how they differentiated from each other, why  THEIR products and services were far superior.

Yet, each of them used the same application we had built for this ‘new’ product they were licensing from us.  In other words, the ONLY thing different about all three companies was the name of the product and the logo that showed up in the corner.  Everything else was functionally the same.

The uniqueness among them was a myth.

From a business perspective, you need to understand that you are likely NOT unique in the context of what you do.  I get 200-300 emails a week from vendors and consultants vying for my budget.  And, everyone of them are completely unique.  At least in their own minds.    Rarely in mine.

The FIRST question I ask any vendor walking into my office is “What makes you unique?”

Most of the time, I get a bullshit response.

“Our People”

“Our Framework”

“Our Process”

I judge them at that point.  Just like you judge new music within two SECONDS of listening to it, I do the same.  And, most of my peers do it, too.  I shut out those that set off my bullshit factor.

So, what can you say to me that would make a difference with the question:  “What makes you unique?”

  1. Connect with me emotionally, but not fearfully.   I hate it when a security firm walks in with the Fear Factor.  “If you don’t do this, it could cost millions.”  They may be right, but it’s a huge turn off.  Connect with me more positively.  Apple’s designs connect with people on such an emotional level it turns them into Apple Zombies.  I know.  I am one.
  2. Metrics.  If your answer to my question is “people”, tell me how many decades/centuries of experience you have on staff that will help me.  If it’s process, don’t tell me how the process differs from others.  Tell me how it will solve my problems.  How it has solved others and why it will continue to solve problems in concrete ways.
  3. Value.  Help me realize a business value. Impress me with your ability to care about my business, not just worry about the transaction.  The best relationships I have with my vendors are the ones who aren’t just about the almighty dollar.  I call them all the time and they probably triple the business I would normally give them.
  4. Trust through Transparency.  (More thoughts on this here.)  Tell me your biggest challenges and what you will do  when we have issues.  Because this is a relationship and we will have issues.  Tell me what you are good at.  Tell me what you aren’t good at.  Make me believe you.

And, if you happen to actually BE unique, then, by all means, shout it from the rooftop.

But, be sure you are.


a mostly well-informed, technically savvy, sometimes extroverted introvert

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