By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
It’s difficult to think of any B2B companies that aren’t experiencing shorter product cycles and increasing competition. Rita McGrath at Columbia Business School has a book coming out next year where she talks about the death of competitive advantage and how vendors now have to live with temporary advantages.
Companies face many challenges in trying to keep up, let alone set the pace of change in their marketplaces. Many have made strategic decisions to move away from low margin product sales to “solution sales” which often require selling products as well as services. There have been mixed results. In the same way drivers can “outdrive their headlights” (go so fast they can’t stop in time if they see a person or object ahead), many organizations have asked their sellers to do things that are beyond their abilities. Brilliant business plan will fail if top line revenues can’t be delivered.
For companies facing the situations described above, here are a few suggestions:
1. When offerings are relatively equal, the better salesperson will win the lion’s share of the time. If you can identify and codify superior selling skills, you will be in a great position.
2. If you’re waiting for inbound leads from mid to low level staff to build a pipeline you are likely to:
- Be in very price competitive opportunities with many vendors participating.
- Experience a high level of “no decisions” as budget may not be available.
- Do “in basket selling” and fail to reach out to companies that meet your ideal profile.
3. Migrate away from product training because it does not prepare sellers to make executive level calls. Have sellers focus on business outcomes that executives can achieve through the use of your offerings.
Accept the fact that there will be ebb and flow in terms of competitive advantage with your competition. Make the way your organization sells a differentiator and you will have a hard to find asset: A sustainable competitive advantage.