Differentiate or Die:

Survival in our Era of Killer Competition

by Jack Trout

Book Review by John White

When Jay Kinder wrote the 7 Laws of CHBA, part of what was at the forefront of his thoughts was the importance of the articulation of value. Buyers may drag their heels when it comes to making decisions about which home to buy, but they choose their buying agent quickly. The Certified Home Buying Advisor has to differentiate himself/herself quickly, or lose the transaction. Jack Trout’s Differentiate or Die is not written specifically for real estate agents, but they can learn a lot from his work, especially given the industry is saturated with many agents who will soon be on their way out. They need only keep in mind they are differentiating themselves by their service, not a given product. As Trout emphasizes, differentiation takes place in the mind. Nowadays, the internet has made more options than ever available to the consumer. Minds are limited, they hate confusion, and are generally insecure. Address those needs when talking about your service to differentiate yourself.

One of Trout’s concerns early in the book has to do with pricing. He finds little value and great risk in going lower, but using many examples, he demonstrates the benefit of going higher in price, in that such a move can bring business success, if the prospective customer sees much greater value in the product. If consumer behavior in general applies to the real estate industry, where agents are selling services and usually not delivery great service with much value, then this is good news for real estate agents who are aiming for the traditional 3% commission. If going cheap is often a risky form of differentiation, then those real estate agents who offer a 2% commission are doing themselves more harm than good in the long run. Differentiate yourself by demonstrating the value you are able to contribute, and prospects will not question price.

Being the latest can also come as a great advantage when you are trying to differentiate yourself. But there are some caveats. You can’t solve a nonexistent problem, though – it must really be better. And if that is the case, you can’t be afraid to boast. Likewise, when you are looking at the opportunity to help prospective buyers or sellers, do not hesitate to let to let them know your great credentials, even if it makes you look boastful. Here, I would only suggest to frame your successes – which you want to highlight – in terms of the many people you’ve been able to help, so you show your eagerness to add value. Leadership is actually a great way to differentiate yourself. In an industry that has long since been “bottom line broken,” as Michael Reese has put it, leadership should be moving toward the latest developments, which strongly challenge the status quo!