Archives For operational efficiency

I was recently talking with an account manager responsible for breaking into a large fast food chain.  He could have brought in his PowerPoint slide deck riddled with company statistics, product offerings, roadmaps, and perhaps a list of customers currently using his product.  If he had, he would have looked just like everyone else calling on that account.  Instead, he did the unthinkable…

Reaching out to the local fast food franchise, he explained his role as an account manager to the local store manager and offered to come down to their location and work for free.  His assigned task the first morning of work was to help unload the eighteen-wheeler that shows up around 6:00 AM every morning.  It took about an hour to unload that truck, along with half of the people working at the restaurant.  But look what happened.

After working there for a couple of weeks, this rep was able to compile a compelling list of operational inefficiencies, from which he laid out a roadmap for improvement.  Calling the headquarters was now an easy task, armed with all kinds of data and recommendations that could turn around any fast food restaurant.  He had best seller material in hand.  He requested a short 20 minute meeting, citing his observations of cars leaving the restaurant simply because the truck was in the way.  He offered software and hardware solutions that would turn this truck around in about 15 minutes, freeing up parking space, making it easier to get in and out of the lot, and freeing up an army of people to go serve customers!  This is what executives want to hear, and this led to a multi-million dollar sale that put him ahead of quota after one short 20 minute meeting.  What are you doing for your customers?

True operational efficiency  can be easily shown if certain criteria exist.  First, you absolutely need to be in touch with you customer’s business, and second, your offering has to affect the business process in an undeniable way.  Business opportunities can be created when both of these are true, as long as you can get an audience with someone who cares.  Armed with the right message, this is not difficult.

© 2011, David Stelzl

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Photo taken by David Stelzl

A couple of attendees emailed questions regarding competitive advantage…following Wednesday’s Cisco sponsored webinar.  I thought it might be helpful to address this here:

(Q) Why is Operational Efficiency or Risk Mitigation easier to sell than Competitive advantage?

First, it’s important to note, I did not say you can’t sell using competitive advantage as your value proposition, but rather, operational efficiency and risk mitigation are preferable; at least to the average sales person.  Here’s why…

Companies can use technology to compete, however this type of advantage is often short lived unless the company deploys some type of unique patented technology; something their competition can’t go out and buy tomorrow.  More often than not, technology driven competitive advantage is really an operational efficiency gained by the perfection or automation of some process.  So in the end, it’s really an operational efficiency sale, that in-part, delivers competitive advantage, in addition to delivering cost efficiencies (which their competition will either adopt or find another way to accomplish).  The technology sales person’s ability to foresee such an advantage in a complex manufacturing situation (for instance) is not so likely.  (Again, speaking of the average rep calling across many verticals).

True competitive advantages are seen when a larger company has more buying power, putting others out of business by squeezing their margins such as is the case with the Home Depot stores competing with smaller hardware stores.  Wal*Mart does this by putting highly efficient distribution processes in place that are unaffordable by the average mom and pop store in your local area.  While Wal*Mart may have some unique applications in place, their infrastructure isn’t really unique, just unaffordable to smaller companies.  The process itself is key, and unique as it is cost prohibitive to the smaller company.

Operational efficiency in itself may offer competitive advantage as seen above, and the seller can use this to gain momentum on the purchase, but the efficiency is more easily articulated by the seller.  To go down the competitive advantage road with technology sales may require a deep understanding of the vertical’s market pressures.  Perhaps if the sales person has come out of that industry, they’ll have success with this.

Competitive advantages not tied to operational efficiency, which stand alone as a true advantage that cannot be duplicated, may come in the form of location such as the best corner owned by McDonalds, exclusive distribution of a product, or patented technology such as the iPad and Mac OS.  These advantages are not easily matched.  Will Dell come out with a better laptop than Mac?  Probably not (in my opinion), however they certainly have a less expensive one.   Note how first to market has earned Apple 90% of the market on tablet computers!  This won’t be easy to steal.  This is hard to match when selling commodity goods which are largely over distributed in the VAR/Reseller world.

© 2011, David Stelzl

Twelve things that define a consultative sales person

1. They improve the client’s position – a business level improvement.

2. Product is never the business driver; it is simply a tool being used in the improvement process.

3. Money is not at the center of negotiations, likelihood of successful improvement is.

4. Discovery is an integral part of the selling process; fees are not quoted until the project is understood.

5. The discovery process involves both technical and business people, and the sales person is intimately involved with each business discovery meeting.

6. The primary targets involve people who have predictable needs, not those shopping for widgets.

7. The projects show specific improvements in operational efficiency, risk levels, competitive advantage, or return on investment.  They are measureable and understood before the project is sold.

8. High-end consultants and engineers are part of the delivery process.

9. Projects are sold with a scope of work, not quoted as a line item with an associated discount.

10. They consider business people to be their peers, not IT.

11. They are continually learning, investing time in reading, and attending educational offerings.

12. They differentiate their offerings with intellectual capital, not discounts.

© 2010, David Stelzl

Several companies ago, one of my employees, our security practice manager, made the comment, “Eventually everyone realizes that security is the place to focus.”  He is right, just about everything hings on security when it comes to technology.  You can have all kinds of ROI, operational efficiency gains, etc. But if it’s not secure, it doesn’t really offer any benefit to the corporation.  Here is Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com reminding us that, security is a core part of the value proposition regardless of what technology you are selling.

© 2010, David Stelzl