I read Jill Konrath’s blog this morning. The title really caught my attention:
It brought me back to my early days in selling. I had a sales manager that actually called our customer Prey and we were the lions that needed to catch the prey and devour them, he even made us growl! I have had countless managers get angry at me for having friends or colleagues that work for companies that could be considered “competitors”. I always made a point to expand my network into these areas so that I could learn from others, understand how the competitors work, and find creative ways to work together. Jill so eloquently calls this out in her blog:
Being involved in a community increases your reach exponentially. Your shared connections are much vaster than your own network.
and she provides practical ways to get started. Definitely worth a read! Do it now…
This also reminded me of an old article I read years ago that took some digging. This was in direct response to a sales meeting I had with a previous manager who talked about WAR and the similarities of Selling…
Contrary to what some may say, growing a business isn’t a blood sport. It’s not about killing the competition or winning at all costs. The fact is, successful competitors tend to meet on a more common ground, sometimes collaborating one day and bidding against each other the next.
Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/179346#ixzz2gNZW4INu
Understanding your competitors is a necessary function of any sales job, collaborating with them as well, should be part of your overall strategy. Think of selling as an Art form, not Warfare! Build your network and learn from all of those you can around you. You really don’t anything to lose, and so much to gain. You will stand out from your peers and gain valuable skills along the way.
your comments are welcomed!
I read a recent article that was pointed to from a Blog that I read regularly –
Jill Konrath’s Selling to Big Companies Blog. In her current blog post One Sales Strategy That Really Works, she points to a good video that describes the use of White Paper marketing and how it can help your organization succeed.
“Michael Stelzner used it to get 60,234 leads over a five year period. He’s a small business owner … a regular guy who stumbled onto this strategy that:
- Brought him high quality prospects virtually overnight.
- Established him as a thought leader in his market space.
- Kept on generating leads for years.
Using educational marketing, his company landed accounts such as Microsoft, FedEx and Dow Jones. Not too shabby a client base!
Today Michael is launching a series of videos on how he used these educational techniques to transform his business. “
My current company uses this pretty effectively. By having people in the organization that are respected in the local community as well as from Microsoft (our services are all based on Microsoft), we are able to leverage their status and knowledge in writing good quality, high value white papers that attract attention. (more…)
Jill Konrath writes about why Free is not selling in her blog: http://sellingtobigcompanies.blogs.com/selling/2007/03/why_free_isnt_g.html
She points out two reasons why nothing is free:
“Everything that’s free ultimately requires two things:
- An investment of time.
- And a decision – which also takes time. “
She is correct. If you look at things outside of their financial investment nothing is free, everything takes time. She mentions that people just don’t have time today.
Jill goes on to write:
“So even if your company has something it gives away for free – don’t lead with it. Instead, focus on the business value. Unless decision makers know that it will reduce costs, increase productivity, shorten time-to-revenue or such, they won’t clear time on their calendar for you.”
My company sells IT project based services. We are tasked with working with clients to understand their business challenges, map those to a technology and set of services that can solve those, and ultimately get them to sign a deal for us to do the work.
It is very difficult to get time from the people we sell to. They are so busy running their IT shops that they have little time to meet with vendors. One of our larger Partner Vendors likes to try to have us do Free Assessments. Companies are not receptive to this. They are tired of free assessments…why? Because nothing is free. They take too much time and energy and the results are often worthless.
So what works. We request and recognize that getting to know each other and understanding what it is they do and how we can improve on that takes time. We put our very best resources in front of qualified leads. Why waste your very best resources on something that is just a lead? Because the client gets value from these people that a sales guy could never deliver. The client is investing time, why should we not make their investment worthwhile. Companies that lead with sales people all the way to close miss this point. Unless of course their sales people are truly the best and the brightest in the company.
If you offer value, your prospects will make time to meet with you. If you want to pitch how great your company is and talk the whole time, you will not get much time.
your comments are welcomed!
how differentiate yourself by being truly committed to helping your client succeed and not just committed to selling your product. This is a fundamental shift in the way a lot of sales people sell, and it is again refreshing to see additional posts related to this subject.
I have always had the philospohy that a sales rep’s job is not to SELL but to find a customer that has a need that we solve where the FIT is right.
Two things happened to me this week. One I lost a big, really BIG deal to a competitor and Two – I read an article in Selling Power Magazine related to selling in the face of bad news. These may seem to be two separate items on the surface but they an interesting connection that I thought was worth writing about.
The article in Selling Power ran in the back (page 78) of the September 2006 issue and is all about tips for selling when your company is having bad press. While this is a difficult time to be selling for your company the article does a good job at highlighting some tips and techniques to get over it.
The most interesting part to me was an insert in the article called “secret Technique: Booby Trap the Competition”. This insert can be referenced here: http://www.sellingpower.com/article/display.asp?Action=Sidebar&aid=SP6955668&sid=SP4891302 (you may need to register to open the link)
Jim Holden has a very good technique for PROACTIVELY addressing the competitions inevitable comments related to your company’s bad news. Sales people can not resist the urge to pounce on their competitors bad news. Sometimes this works but more than not it fails. I made a practice long ago to not speak negatively of any competitor, regardless of their size, sales tactics, or bad press. Why? Because it never casts you or your company in a good light. Any informed, bright, or due diligence oriented customer already knows the competition, their value add, and any questions regarding their ability to deliver what the customer needs. By bringing up dirt on your competition you are telling your customer they do not have the intelligence to make an educated decision on their own. This should never be done. By not throwing dirt you are setting yourself at a higher ethical level and your customer will see that. — I just wish those damn politicians would realize how insulting their negative attack ads are!!
So the technique in the link above is perfect for those of us taking the high ground. It give you a way of not throwing dirt and at the same time defends you against your competitor who will throw dirt at you. I have used this time and time again it it works if you focus on doing it at the right time and in the right way (casual introduction and then leave it).
So my week – I lost a huge deal because my firm could not produce a relevant reference to a project that was similar in size and scope to the one we were bidding. We have many references but they were in the Federal Gov’t and could not be referenced on a call. The Federal Gov’t just will not do that.
We made the client promises on delivery time and cost, to limit their risk. We bid fixed cost.
We gave the client numbers written case studies on work similar to their project just could not produce a client for them to talk to.
We lost – our competitors pushed their experience and our inexperience, and had a better written proposal than we did. The decision was not cost based, it was PERCEIVED experience based.
While we never bashed our competitor, I am confident they did against us. I did not use the above technique and I lost the opportunity to make them look bad. Would we have won if I did? Maybe, or maybe not. But since I did not use it I will not know. The lesson here is to use what you have, defend what you don’t, and always take the high ground – win or lose you will sleep better at night and your customers will respect that. This customer even told me that they really liked our professional, low pressure approach and would be open to using us in the future.
As always I welcome your comments