Tag Archives: Industry expert

Caring Creates CompetitionProof Customers

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No doubt, you’ve recently been served by someone that obviously didn’t care: they didn’t care about their job, about their product, certainly not about you. How likely are you to select a different vendor next time?

A caring attitude and behavior seems to be way less common today, yet is a critical component of creating a CompetitionProof environment. It’s really easy to demonstrate caring. Here are a few examples: When you are working with a customer, give them your full attention. That means not checking your watch, answering the phone, multitasking, or being distracted by other activities.

Act as if the customer you’re with is the only customer you have and see what happens to your sales. Take a few seconds to see what else your customer needs from you. Surprisingly, sales people say, “Anything else?” which tends to cut off the conversation. Instead say, “What more can I do for you,” which opens to further discussion.

Remember, if you customer has to go to another vendor to get what they need, you’re highly vulnerable to competitive attack. Set up your environment to let customers know that you care. Does your screen saver say, “I’d rather be golfing?” That’s a not so subtle indicator that they may not have your complete attention.

When you show your customers that you care about them, you create a CompetitionProof impression.

Today’s post was inspired by a great conversation with colleague, Tim Richardson (http://timrichardson.com/), as he was driving to South Dakota to speak for the governor. Tim’s forthcoming book is about the impact that a caring culture has on business success.

Make Your Price a Reason to Buy

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Most sales people in most deals are faced by price objections. Of course it’s going to happen; it’s the buyer’s fiduciary duty to ask for a better price. After all, if they don’t ask, they’ll never get a better deal.

On the other hand, it’s the sales professional’s duty to keep as much margin as possible and make the sale. Yet keep in mind, if it was only about price, we would buy and sell everything on eBay.

So get used to defending your price and begin to make your price a reason for your customer to buy from you.

Here’s how:

1) Never, ever offer a discount without the buyer asking for one. Most sales people who do so think that they’re making a pre-emptive strike on a discount request. All they’re doing is needlessly giving away margin. Sales managers: retrain or release these people.

2) When a customer asks for a deal, reply, “Why are you asking for a lower price? Would you like for me to not include something that you have in mind?”

3) If the customer says, “Your price is too high,” you must find out what they mean. “Too high? What are you comparing us to?” You have no idea how to adjust the deal unless you know what “too high” means. Are you two cents too high? Two million too high? Are they comparing apples with apple pie?

4) If they continue to press for a price cut, offer, “May I explain why we charge what we do?” Then list all of the value propositions that they have found desirable. Say, “If this isn’t what you want or need, let’s talk about a smaller solution that would cost less.”

Remember that discount discussions are a taught negotiating behavior.So use that as a cue to resume value discussions and you’ll find that you’ll be CompetitionProof.

CompetitionProof and Social Media

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CompetitionProof means creating relationships that can’t be attacked by competitors. And the tighter the emotional connections with your customers, the more difficult it will be for a competitor to get in.

The good news is that it’s easier than ever to create emotional connections with social media. We can share personal  information that in the past we wouldn’t have time, nor the inclination, to disclose.

For example, one of my audience members who friended me on FaceBook has become a voracious cook (like me) posting  recipes and bakes cookies for her clients (what a great idea!). I would have never known this without social media. I feel  connected and it only takes a few seconds to maintain that connection.

The same goes for companies that I do business with that I watch on FaceBook. I’m much more likely to buy from them because I’ve developed an affinity and loyalty through our social interaction. It’s probably true for you.

So ask your clients to join you on LinkedIn, follow you via Twitter, watch your tech tutorials on YouTube, read your articles on Digg, check your blog, and even like you on Facebook. Sure, not everyone will oblige. Yet social network sites are visited by more than 80% of the U.S.!

I recommend that you use LinkedIn for professional clients, FaceBook for friends, FaceBook fan pages for clients, Digg, YouTube, your blog (I’m loving Posterous), and Twitter for the general population. Of course, interlink and cross post because people use them in various ways.

Make sure that your post has at least two of the following attributes for your target audience: entertaining, educational, emotional, and evocative.

Check FaceBook daily (be careful, some people become addicted). Make a post to LinkedIn three times a week. Tweet several times a day. Write an article or blog post a week. Total time required; about 90 minutes a week.

I do this waiting in line, filling five minutes before a meeting, and so forth, using my iPhone. I do sit down to write this blog, though.

And before you know it you’ll have many fans and followers, every one of them making you more and more CompetitionProof.

P.S. Never post after cocktails. Even though you can delete a post, you can never completely recall it from cyberspace because the search engines grab it almost immediately.

How To Win a Competitive Bid Discussion

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I’m hearing this question around the globe; regardless of what type of hardware or software being sold, and regardless of what region. The reality is that every vendor is very competitive, looking for any edge, and slashing prices. You are very familiar with your product, you know the pros and cons, you are familiar with the price point discussion, so what are you missing?

Become an Industry Expert

To be a successful, not only do you need to be extremely familiar with your offering, you also need to be just as, if not more familiar with the products that your competitors are enthusiastically promoting.

One of my favorite stories about competitive advantage happened to a colleague who was riding with the top sales pro for an industrial chemical company. The sales rep was on the phone to a prospect.

“Why are we so much more expensive? Do you have our competitor’s catalog there? Great! Look at page 50, lower left corner. See, they sell it in 20 pound cans. We sell it in 30 pound cans. Yes, that explains the difference. Yes, I can have that at your plant tomorrow.”

My colleague was aghast. “You’ve memorized your competitor’s catalog? What are you, Rain Man?”

“I spend a lot of time on the road, and instead of watching TV at night; I review my competitor’s literature. It doesn’t take much time and I can win most deals with what I learn, so it’s worth it.”

Take it Up a Level

You need to take the conversation beyond the competitive spec sheet (which counts to a lower-level employee) and position your technology as the way to meet their business objectives (which counts at the decision-making level). If you discuss your solution from a technical perspective with executives you are going to miss the opportunity.

You’ll always win when you create a clear differentiator between your solution and other offerings; from a non-technical, business perspective, and make it easy for executives to say ‘yes’ to your offer.

You might be thinking; yeah, but I only sell to the I.T. professional in the datacenter; I don’t have access to the other executives. This is true only if you’re selling small ticket products. Every proposal above a certain amount will go to the executive committee for review. If the I.T. professional brings your proposal to the executive committee; they’re already sold. All they need to do is sell their bosses and they rely on your proposal to do just that.

In reality, you are selling to the executive committee regardless of your point of contact within your customers’ organization. So intentionally craft your message to make it easy for the strategic thinkers within your customers’ organization to agree to your offer. Make sure that your written proposal is a business-based solution as opposed to a technical-based solution. Illustrate how your technology is the perfect ‘fit’, meeting the organization’s business objectives.

And when you do that, you’ll close way more deals regardless of the technology you are selling; bringing you one step closer to becoming truly CompetitionProof.