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5 Steps to Competitive Differentiation - Part 1

Buyers don't want to spend time with you. Why? Because you are a seller.

They don't listen to your pitch. They don't accept calls from you. They don't make time to meet with you. They don't read your e-mails or pay attention to information you send.

Why not? Mainly, for one simple reason. It's because you are a seller.

Sellers are personas non grata in this age of empowered buyers.

That's why you need to distinguish yourself. You can't afford to be lumped in with all those other sellers who buyers deliberately avoid. To differentiate yourself, you need to stop selling and start leading. As a leader, your buyers will become your followers. That should be a welcome relief for any sales professional who is struggling to advance the sale or move leads through the pipeline.

In this 5-part series, we'll examine the first five principles needed to stop selling and start leading. These principles are backed by 30 years of research by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner on the behaviors of exemplary leaders around the world. Their research on The Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders® has been validated by more than 600 independent research studies.

Think about a person you would willingly choose to follow. What makes this person follow worthy? By studying the characteristics of admired leaders, Kouzes and Posner concluded that credibility counts. They said, in their 2001 book titled "Credibility," that "what people want in a leader is someone who is honest and trustworthy, who is competent and has expertise, who has a vision of the future, and who is dynamic and inspiring." Credibility fuels these characteristics and is also the natural outgrowth of them.

Now, back to buyers. What they want in sellers parallels what we all want in leaders. As a buyer, wouldn't you rather do business with someone who is honest and trustworthy? Who is competent and has expertise? Who has a vision of the future (that is, your future goals being achieved) and is dynamic and inspiring?

To lead, sellers, too, must be credible. Buyers demand no less, just as followers expect no less of their leaders.

So how can you build and sustain your credibility with buyers? The answer lies in that same body of research. When Kouzes and Posner asked people "How do you define credibility behaviorally?" the most common response was "they do what they say they will do." Variations on this phrasing included:

  • They practice what they preach.
  • They walk the talk.
  • They follow through on their commitments.

Credibility is the direct result of this behavior: Do What You Say You Will Do (DWYSYWD).


To DWYSYWD, make sure your words and deeds are aligned. Don't over-promise and under-deliver. Don't forget to follow up when you said you would. Don't be the stereotypical seller who will say anything to make a sale. Be credible.

By being credible, you will gain trust. With trust, you will earn repeat business and referrals. You will become a highly valued resource. You will no longer be kept at arm's length in the seller zone.

By being credible, you will gain the faith of your followers (formerly your buyers). They will be open to your recommendations and appreciative of your suggestions. They will be ready for your help and support.

By being credible, you will differentiate yourself from the sea of sellers out there who are not leaders.  To get started, DWYSYWD. Then you can stop selling and start leading.

The CONNECT2Sell Blog has been discontinued as our focus has shifted to leadership at every level. Research with buyers demonstrates that buyers respond favorably when sellers show up as leaders. If you'd like to step into your full potential as a leader (and boost sales!), take a look at our free and affordable courses on