Archives For competition

Uniquely Yours…

March 29, 2011 — Leave a comment

Photo taken by David Stelzl

As I mentioned yesterday, when someone requires you to deliver ROI or TCO numbers as part of the red-tape process, the sale really isn’t based on ROI or TCO, but rather this is just a protocol the company has for vetting possible providers.  In most cases they will have a format or model for doing this, and your best bet is to work with them, using their models to make your case.  However, don’t fall into the trap of believing numbers are the deciding factor.  They rarely are.   The lowest price only wins when offerings are equal.  So what are you doing to set yourself apart?  Anything that can be documented can be commoditized.  And anything that can be commoditized can be computerized.  And anything that can be computerized can eventually be done on an appliance or smart phone.  Creativity and perspective are yours uniquely.   But make sure they are uniquely great.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Advertisements

I was somewhat embarrassed when one my long time friends and business associates contacted me last night to comment on yesterday’s white board post.  “I never use Power Point”, was his first comment…and I know he closes some very big deals.  But his second comment was a correction, and he’s absolutely right!  “Your competition will likely see your notes if you leave them there.”

I was reminded of one of my first big deals at the start of this business.  The meeting was set to be held in the decision maker’s office, and I had spent several hours deliberating over the scope, sales call plan, and of course, pricing.  The price was the hard part.  I didn’t want to lose the deal to price, I didn’t have a reputation that justified a big price, and I didn’t want to undersell this, leaving me with a great project for no money.  I finally settled on a price I thought would work, but when I entered the office my competitor’s notes were on the board.  Their price was far higher!  So when the time came to give a price, I confidently put forth a price 60% higher than my original estimate.  The deal was agreed to the next day, and I was the winner.  Bottom line…don’t leave anything on the board for your competition to see.  (Another strategy might be to put some wrong information up their in an effort to lead them astray…said with a chuckle).

© 2011, David Stelzl

How will the next sales person be chosen?

So how are sales people chosen in today’s market?  It used to be  that a friendly, enthusiastic person, who was able to find common ground through activities and interests had it made.  Frank Bettger wrote a powerful book many years ago called, How I raised myself from failure to success in selling, focusing on these strengths; and they are still relevant today.  However, there are millions of sales people with enthusiasm, so there has to be more.  Here are the typical things I hear when I ask, “How were you chosen?”:

 

Word of Mouth.  This requires a reputation for results in a market driven by demand.  One or two opportunistic deals may come through word-of-mouth, but to rely on this method for new business requires a buzz in the market – meaning you are offering something in high demand and people are talking, and, you are fast becoming a leader in your space.  People talk, so make sure your reputation is above reproach.  Working higher up in the organization increases the effectiveness of this process as executives exchange ideas at social functions.  Few IT people ever interact with peers from other companies so don’t count on business growth through this channel.

Direct Reference. Trusted advisors are chosen by the buyer.  Gaining credibility in a crowded marketplace is not easy, but references can help.  Sales people that do a good job of collecting and farming references are way ahead if they use this information correctly.  When it comes to calling on clients, posting web content, or even sending a letter or datasheet, well placed quotes from recognizable companies can go a long way in establishing trust before work has been sold.  Sales people would be wise to take this into consideration on the heels of every  well executed engagement.

Vendor Affiliation. Established connections with other recognized organizations should not be underestimated.  This is particularly true when it comes to aligning with manufacturers.  I know many companies who live on leads from vendors they partner with.  That said, don’t be deceived into thinking that being a “Cisco Reseller” or any other brand reseller will help you.  It won’t unless the sales people on the street are aligned with you.  Channel programs rarely produce any reasonable leads – rather it is the sales people who are encouraged to push business to the channel that feed the reseller.  And they generally choose who they feed.

Personal contact. I generally steer away from selling to friends.  This is the problem with multi-level marketing; these people have no friends once they sign up.  They are encouraged to reach out to the neighborhood, selling to friends, church members, club members, and anyone in their immediate social circle.  It won’t be long before everyone is wary of spending time with this sort of sales person, knowing that every invitation or phone call is an underhanded attempt to sell something.  However, that said, personal contacts that are not used to overtly sell can be powerful, and establishing helpful relationships in the marketplace through LinkedIn and other business oriented networking tools or events can be powerful.  The key here is to become a valued resource to those around you.  One of the things that has worked well for me has been helping people who are actively seeking a new job or who have been displaced from a current position.   Pro bono, I offer to help them with resumes, interview skill, and contacts.  I don’t do this to overtly solicit their help in new business, but by being helpful.  The favor is often returned.  The idea is to become a valued contact rather than a leech, and as people observe your creativity and value, you’ll be remembered when they need help later in their efforts to succeed.  One word of caution, don’t keep score, just be helpful.

Educational Marketing.  One of the most effective means of winning new business in today’s market is education.  Consumers want knowledge, and those who establish themselves as educational resources become the advisors of the future.  Add trust to this equation and you may find yourself being chosen as the next “trusted adviser”.  Blogs, articles, events, and even sales calls that center around education rather than widget sales go a long way in establishing value.  They also create business where none existed.  Become the best educator you can be.  This is where your efforts should be spent…read, listen, learn,…teach.

* Advertisement.  I’ve purposely placed these last two items, well,… last.  Advertising in a crowded marketplace is generally a waste of time.  By this I mean, high-involvement selling such as programming, designing, integration, security, etc.  Print ads target masses of people who have no interest in hopes of finding that needle in the haystack.  Years ago this worked, but junk mail has taken over the US Post Office and they are non-profit.  No one looks forward to visiting their mail box any more.  When was the last time you received a personal letter in your mail box?    And email has followed.  Spam is a problem, don’t add to it.

* RFP Response. Here’s another waste of time.  Unless you are in the account, writing the RFP (Request for Proposal), chances are you’re wasting your time.  Some companies are required to do this (for instance, Government offices), however, when commercial companies do it, they are wasting your time.  The purpose of the RFP is to create a level playing ground.  Is that what you want?  Does it make sense to strip a company of their value, selling skills, creativity, etc. when looking for an advisor or solution provider?  No!  If you are making tons of money on RFPs, more power to you; feel free to keep going.  If you are like most, this is a losing game, one you would be better off avoiding.  If sales are lower than expected, choose to educate as stated above and build your pipeline accordingly.  Don’t mistake busy work for opportunity.

© 2010, David Stelzl

Here’s a rare clip from a recent Making Money with Security Workshop…don’t forget to check out my upcoming virtual workshop.  I only have 16 seats left and there is no travel on this – perfect for smaller sales organizations.

http://www.stelzl.us/sales_development_MMS1_virtual.asp

© 2010, David Stelzl

Whether it\’s LPI, Zenith, Nable, or one of the many platforms available out there, it\’s really your technical knowhow and your ability to lower the impact and likelihood issues your client may face.  Yesterday was just one more example of total incompetence with the big players.  Heading out on a four day trip, I opened up my laptop in the airport in hopes of getting some work done between flights.  All of the sudden my wireless broadband card will not connect.

Verizon tests my connection and says everything is ok on their side and then actually takes a proactive step and gets Dell on the line (something I never expected).  Then after the usual computer troubleshooting 101 drills, the Dell tech decides we need to reinstall my entire system from the disks sent with the laptop.  That\’s right, not reinstall the driver for this wireless card, but actually rebuild the entire system.  I\’ve already told him I am sitting in the airport, but he actually asks if I have the disks and can save my data to a thumb drive!  How hard is it to beat this kind of competition?

I’m amazed every time I fly.  The flight attendant thanks us, saying “We know you have a choice.”  The fact is I don’t really have a choice because I live in Charlotte.  And I can think of numerous cities I’ve been to that don’t have a choice either.  Generally there is one airline that works well for the trip I’m taking, and if you live in a hub city, the dominant airline is the only real choice. Now, when I check into my hotel I really do have a choice.  There are always several hotels clustered together or within a few minutes of my meeting. 

This explains why hotels are constantly trying to beat out the competition…they actually have competition.   If you travel frequently you’ve probably noticed the constant upgrading of mattresses, bedding, and funny shaped shower curtain rods; and one chain I use on occasion even has two shower heads to make sure I have enough water volume.  There’s also an obvious difference in point status.  At the hotel, as a platinum member, I get the red carpet treatment every time.  They are happy to see me and will go out of their way to make sure all is right. On the airplane it’s the opposite. The more I fly, the less I get.  Something’s wrong.

The lesson here is that competition is good.  It spurs us on to achieve greater things and to improve our value proposition to the customer.  I will be speaking later today in Orlando, on creating an effective value proposition, to a group of VAR business owners.  If they are like most groups their marketing sheets and elevator pitches all sound the same; they design, install, and manage some area of technology.  If you are a technology reseller what will keep your competition from coming in and taking the business?  Is your value proposition any different than the other qualified VARs selling in your area; is it price?

Your ability to be an advisor sets you apart.  If you can’t advise, in an area that needs advisement, you may be in trouble.  As one responsible for developing and maintaining clients you can’t afford to sit still.  Technologies and strategies are changing.  Expect to see major changes in our industry in the coming year as more software moves to SaaS (Software as a Service), cloud computing or Haas (Hardware as a Service) replaces large storage purchases, and virtualization threatens to eat away at offerings you used to count on as your main revenue stream.  Learn how these apply to a client’s business, how they affect risk and operational efficiencies, and be prepared to discuss these at the executive level.