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Your differentiator

Being different is a by-product, not a goal.

When you treat it as the goal, “different” can easily become a trap. It deceives you to chase superficial changes like choosing quirky colors, strange slogans, or odd advertising gimmicks in hopes of being unique. Yet, these surface-level tweaks are often meaningless if they don’t tie back to something real and valuable for the customer.

This kind of different wants you to believe that by standing out in a crowd, you’ll capture attention and thrive. And you might. But there’s no guarantee that this attention will be in your favor.

The real magic happens when a business shifts its focus from “different” to “meaningful”.

When you zero in on a specific problem faced by a specific group of people and craft a solution specifically tailored to them, you’ll almost inevitably stand out for them. This customer-centric approach makes a world of difference. When no-one else provides a solution that fits so well for them, you’re obviously different. More importantly, by diving into the lives of the customers, understanding their needs, and crafting solutions that ease their pains, a business becomes a valuable asset to them. It’s about forming a connection that’s deeper than a flashy logo or a catchy tune.

Make no mistake, you might still end up using quirky colors or edgy slogans, packaging, and marketing.

But this time, it’s not just about standing out; it’s about standing out for the right reasons.


What just happened? Did they seriously choose that piece of junk over mine?

Every detail, every nuance — mine’s miles ahead … and it’s still trumped by that amateur hour show? What a kick in the gut.

Damn it! All those nights, the endless tweaking, all the personal sacrifices—swept aside for what? Some fancy talk and smoke and mirrors? I mean, their sweet talk might impress for a moment, but it won’t hold up in the long run. Why can’t they see past the façade?

They must be blind. Or stupid. Anyone with half a brain would see mine’s the real deal. If they just looked closer, gave it a real shot, they’d get it.

Are they seriously this clueless?


What do you reply to this frustrated person?

They won’t know what hit them

Alright, this is it. The big meeting. I’ve got all the facts lined up, PowerPoint is flawless, and my talking points are sharp. I’m ready to persuade the heck out of them. They won’t know what hit them.

Okay, opening slide – good. I can see they’re listening. Time to ramp it up. Point one, point two, hit them with a statistic! Why do they look confused? No worries, I’ll explain it again, but faster and with more emphasis.

Wait, why is Sarah looking at her watch? And why is Mike doodling? They should be hanging on to my every word. Alright, double down. Speak louder, be more assertive.

Uh oh, I’ve lost them. They’re nodding, but it’s that empty nod people do when they’ve checked out. What went wrong? I pushed all the points, I laid out all the facts.

“Don’t persuade harder, resonate stronger.” That phrase suddenly pops into my head. My old mentor, Michael, used to say that. I brushed it off back then, but it’s ringing true right now.

I need to pause. I need to breathe. What do these people care about? What matters to them? I’ve been so focused on what I want to say that I’ve ignored what they need to hear.

Alright, shift gears.

Let’s try this again.

Slow down … tune into their frequency … and hit the right notes.

Time to resonate …


In elementary sales school you learn that a prospect’s “no” is short for “not enough information”.

And so, whole armies of salesforces bombard their prospects with ever more info when the prospect has already tuned out and started to feel annoyed.

A better way is to consider the possibility that your customers are actually, you know, smart and that they might actually know what they want and need.

Sure, sometimes a “no” means that you haven’t explained it well enough or that a crucial detail was missing. But other times, a “no” really does mean “no”.

If it’s the latter, rather than adding more detail you might want to consider fixing the product or finding a better match. Only if if’s the former will tweaking your communication have an impact.

(It helps, of course, to become good at distinguishing the two.)

Charismatic founders

There’s this certain breed of super charismatic founders. You could listen to them for hours and after the meeting you’ll leave with a feeling of excitement. Their enthusiasm was so mesmerizing and that thing they were telling you about really sounded cool.

So, you feel you just have to tell your friends about it. Which you do. Well, actually it’s more that you try to tell them. Because soon you discover that it’s actually pretty hard to explain. Somehow, you can’t quite put your finger on what the point really is. What sounded so cool when she said it, sounds rather confusing when you say it.

And so, your friends don’t quite get your excitement.

Which is not your fault. Because the one thing that the founder missed was to make it easy for others to pass the message along.

They won’t be in the room when the message gets passed along. And so the message itself must be crafted such that it captivates even when others share it.

How do you make it easy for others to pass your message along?

What customers want

Many failed products are built on what the makers think people should want. Successful products deliver on what people actually want or need (if not both).

Meta’s virtual reality products are built around what they think people should want: an artificial metaverse that looks kind of childish and that enables experiences that no-one has asked for. They try to conquer the world by creating something entirely new in the hopes that people would want that.

On Monday, Apple has unveiled their take on headsets. They chose not to create something entirely new. They built an (arguably) better way to experience the things that people already know. At the core, their headset is a way superior display compared to any other display that we used before. On that display, we can do the things that we already do, browsing the web, watching movies, enjoying family photos or collaborating with colleagues; most of these things seem to work better than on traditional displays. Movies will be more immersive, screens for our work will feel bigger etc.

Instead of creating something entirely new, the Vision Pro looks like it is about doing the things that we already love to do with the apps we already love to use, but better. That’s literally their pitch: “So you can do the things you love in ways never before possible.”

Apple doesn’t make customers want something entirely new. It tries to sell customers on a better way to get what they already want.

Jaws in Space – The shortest pitch ever?

The pitch for the original Alien movie is widely considered to be one of the best pitches ever made.

Legend has it that it was only 3 words long.

It could have been 3 hours long, explaining in great detail how the story works, detailing the dark mood, forecasting box office sales, introducing the creation team, diving into their track record, …

… and many more aspects that an advisor would recommend you mention in a pitch.

The creators chose to dismiss all of that. They saw two things that made all of it redundant information:

First, it was shortly after the mega success of Jaws which created a hype for the thriller genre.

Second, it was the dawn of science fiction, with Star Wars just having conquered the world and other films around the corner.

Hollywood wanted thrillers and it wanted science fiction. What it wanted even more was a thriller science fiction movie.

And that was all the Alien creators needed to know. Here’s their pitch:

“Jaws in Space”

These three words sparked the producers’ imagination: If we can make a film as thrilling as Jaws but located in Space, box office success would be a no-brainer. The future success felt so present for them, that it made them beg the creators to tell them more.

Now they wanted all the info.

And that’s the perfect moment to give the info. After your audience wants it, not before.

How can you create the urge for your audience to want the info before you give it to them?

The better deal

I’ve seen many pitches end in frustration as a result of begging for a yes. Sometimes that works. But often it doesn’t.

The thing is: a pitch is not about you making a good deal. It’s about the decision maker making an even better deal. They might be in the mood for doing you a favor. But don’t count on it. Usually, they are not. They are much more likely to give you a “yes” when they see how it’s a no-brainer deal for them.

That’s not about undervaluing yourself or agreeing to terms that are less favorable than you deserve. Nor is it about overpromising or making things sound better than they are.

It is about actually being the better deal.

The beauty of it is that in a great partnership, both sides feel like they got the better deal. They have money that you don’t have, you have ideas that they don’t have. They have connections that you don’t have, you have innovations that they don’t have.

So, why are you the better deal? There’s no need for begging when you are. (All you need to do is tell a true story about your idea.)

After the pitch

After your pitch what happens?

Often a pitch doesn’t lead to an immediate decision: “Thank you very much, we’ll think about it.”

That’s why great pitches make it easy for the decision makers to speak about your idea as they try to make the decision. A great pitch has a very clear take away message that’s easy to pass along among the decision makers during that process or when they bring in others into the decision loop.

What’s your pass along message?

The devil’s cute advocate

There are two ways to play the devil’s advocate game: the serious way and the cute way.

The cute way goes like this: Think of an objection to your idea. Be proud that you thought of that objection. Come up with some reply (mostly anything will do). Check the box and move on to the next objection.

The cute advocate is a low effort way of reassuring yourself that you’ve made some due diligence. It’s not so much meant to challenge your idea but more to soothe your conscience. It easily happens when you’re overly confident of your idea – which is when we tend to not take objections too seriously.

The serious way is very different. It’s a high intensity effort to question every little detail and make it your goal to spot even the tiniest of loopholes. You play the devil’s advocate with even more passion than you have for your own idea. You get joy out of crushing your idea. That’s why you don’t settle with your first reply. You keep on challenging it. Try to uncover contradictions. Find all the false assumptions …

The serious way can feel devastating. At times, you may feel like giving up because really, the devil’s advocate is right, your idea is just a huge pile of nonsense.

Which of course it isn’t.

Guess which of the two approaches leads to better ideas?

The players who prefer the cute version might appear to be more confident at times. And they might get away with it in the short run. But if you’re interested in making a difference, you might be better off if you didn’t try to be right but started to get it right instead.

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Dr. Michael Gerharz

Dr. Michael Gerharz



Yes, I love talking to you. Call me at +49.2241.8997777
Or reach out at michael@michaelgerharz.com