Al Franken’s character, Stuart Smalley, from Saturday Night Live is famous for the line “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me.” This is excellent advice if you are working on self esteem, but for your business, Stuart has it wrong. Good enough doesn’t cut it! It’s a simple but profound truth, in sales, out of all of the options a prospect has, there is only one “best choice.” Best choice gets the sale, and for everyone else, as Jeff Probst would say “Got nothin’ for you, head back to camp.”
If you are not closing sales, either you are the best and have failed to convince the right prospects that you are, or in fact your competitors are better. I repeat, being good enough doesn’t cut it. You have to be the best. It’s worth noting here that perception is reality; “best choice” is judged entirely by the prospect.
Being the best doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive. Best means that the solution you offer most closely matches the client’s needs and budget. If a small 5 person plumbing company is looking for a printer for business cards, a couple of brochures and a small direct mail campaign, then a print shop that specializes in high quality, large format, long press run work isn’t the best choice.
With respect to capability, if you are one of the suppliers swimming in the “good enough” pool, then the only way to be a best choice is to be the cheapest, and this only works for prospects that believe the best choice is the cheapest. Your margins are skinnier and you have to focus on volume. This is a difficult position to maintain because someone can always undercut you. You don’t develop loyal, repeat customers; loyalty is to the price not to you.
Make the commitment to be the best, and get to work on it starting now! If in fact you already are, (and don’t assume, constantly check) you need to work hard to stay there. Competitors are constantly upping the game. Chrysler was the first auto maker to offer power steering in a passenger vehicle in their top line Imperial and had a differentiating advantage. Now it is available on virtually every new car. Cadillac introduced lane-departure warning and blind-spot detection in 2008 and this is being widely adopted by the industry. In industries like software and cell phones, when one developer offers a new feature, if it matters to consumers the next version of a competitor’s product incorporates the feature. Make sure you know what is important to your prospects. You don’t need to be best to the whole world; often you can have a very successful business by serving a segment of a market.
If you are best in ways that matter to a significant segment of the market and you aren’t making sales you need to make changes to the way you communicate your advantage. You need to determine if marketing is not getting the message out. If this is the case you need to look at your marketing communications. When looking at marketing communications I often use an idea learned from my friend Roy Williams who asks “Of the people not doing businesses with you, is it because they don’t know about you or because they do?” In the first case, you simply haven’t gotten your message out. In the second case, there is misinformation or a misperception about your business which needs to be overcome.
If your marketing is getting it done and you are getting traffic into your store or visitors to your website, or you are passing enough qualified leads to your sales team but not closing sales then you need to work on your sales efforts. There are many points in the sales process that you need to analyse. Here are a few things to think about when analyzing your sales process. Are you doing a proper job of qualifying? Who are you dealing with? What is their level of authority? Are they simply gathering information and passing it up the organization, are they researching and making a recommendation, or are they the decision maker? When you are uncovering needs are you asking the right questions? When preparing for the presentation gather as much information as you can on who is involved in making the decision, what the prospect is looking for and how you are being evaluated. Can you have the decision maker involved in the presentation? In your presentation, are you doing a proper job of communicating how your offering satisfies the prospects needs? How are you handling questions and objections from the client? For example, the prospect might ask, “Who in my industry is using your product/service?” They might want assurance that you have experience in their industry. However, the prospect might be a black sheep in their industry that is looking for is a way to get a leg up on their completion and think you might be able to help with that. If you dive right in with a long list, you hurt your chances with this black sheep prospect. Ask, “How important this? ” or “Why do you ask?” Their response will give you an understanding of what they really want to know. Lastly, are you asking for the business? Too often, a sales opportunity is lost because the sales person didn’t ask for a commitment from the client.
In a nutshell, you need to be confident that you are the best solution for a given prospect. Your prospect has to first know that you are a viable option, in order to be given an opportunity to sell to them. Your sales process then needs to remove any doubt in the decision maker’s mind that you are the best choice.
Your feedback is welcome. Also feel free to contact us if you need help improving your business. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your needs.