Photo credit: Getty Images (Constantine Johnny)

How to differentiate your company from its competition

Article originally published by American City Business Journals on August 8, 2022.

All business leaders need to differentiate their company and its products to win business in a competitive marketplace. I wrote an article on this subject in March 2019. This is an update of that article.

At my company, a producer of commodity and performance products sold to other businesses, we constantly faced competitive pricing decisions not only to retain current customers’ business, but also to win the business of new customers. Price was a significant factor in whether we won or lost the business. To have the opportunity to meet a competitor’s lower price, we differentiated ourselves in other areas. 

So, how do you differentiate your company from its competition?

Become the preferred provider

We were always on the journey to be the preferred provider by providing a great customer experience. We wanted to be the company that every customer would preferentially buy from. Our goal was to help our customers be successful in their businesses by being a great supplier.

We made sure that our products always met specifications, our plants were responsive to emergency deliveries and our sales and customer service people worked to resolve any issues with our accounts. It is striking how many businesses do not embrace these universal principles as basic requirements. 

Photo credit: Getty Images (Constantine Johnny)

Build strong customer relationships

The larger and more strategic the customer, the more we developed relationships with the leadership hierarchy within the customer’s organization.

Our sales representatives “owned” the customer relationship—they were the ones who kept in frequent touch with the customer to understand trends in their business and any issues they faced with the use of our products. They brought in our knowledgeable technical service people to troubleshoot and resolve issues.

The regional and national sales managers would develop relationships up through the customer’s organization. As the CEO of our company, I developed a relationship with my counterpart—the customer’s CEO or, if more appropriate, the group president of the business unit purchasing our product.

Get the “last phone call”

If a competitor outbid us for a customer, we needed to know about it before the competitor was awarded the business. We wanted the opportunity to convince the customer of the value we brought to the supply relationship beyond just the product price and if necessary, meet the competitive price. That is the value of developing a strong customer relationship—to get the last phone call before the business is awarded.

Be dedicated to continuous improvement

A strong commitment to continuous improvement of our manufacturing, information technology and back-office processes to drive costs down is critical to the ability to compete.

Our approach to continuous improvement was both top-down (initiated by management) and bottom-up (initiated by front-line employees). We put power and responsibility into the hands of employees to initiate their own improvement projects that were within their authority level. 

If an improvement project was beyond their authority level, they were empowered to present the project to an individual who had the authority to approve it. This created a culture within the company that helped employees develop a sense of ownership in what they did. Employees feeling a sense of ownership is a huge competitive advantage.

When going up against a competitor, you want them to think, “Oh no. Not those guys.” That’s how good you want to be. That’s how you win business in a competitive marketplace.


Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Tags: No tags

Comments are closed.