Today most senior leaders in B2B companies agree that having a superior sales team matters. Although it is difficult to develop a superior sales team, they know it is one of the few sustainable advantages left.
Due to global competition and advanced manufacturing technology even if you have a great product the competition is likely to come out with one that is just as good or “good enough” in half the time of yesteryear – worse yet it is likely to be cheaper. The reality is – it’s more and more difficult over time to sustain a competitive advantage by product alone.
So the logic goes a sales team must not only be able to sell a competitive advantage; they must be a competitive advantage. They must be skilled enough to bring value by the way they sell, as well as, by what they sell. In today’s market this level of competency is the table stakes for developing a superior sales team.
With all this in mind, lets look at one skill set that is part of the table stakes that is under-emphasized. The skill set in question is the ability to think ahead and reason back – that is given the information you know about the customer and your company’s capabilities, how do you generate and execute a strategy for winning the business?
Consider the following customer scenario….
Customer Scenario. A customer is looking to streamline the number of vendors with whom they work. Let’s assume you are not one of the top two vendors, but the medical device you sell to the hospital is unique – the other vendors do not offer a comparable product. Given this scenario – the challenge is how do you become one of the selected vendors? What is your strategy for the account?
- Strategy 1. One strategy is to attempt to unseat one of the current top two suppliers.
- Strategy 2. A second strategy is based on the assumption that the hospital places a priority on retaining your device and that need can be played up. This strategy assumes you are more likely to be successful focusing on your uniqueness than unseating one of the two top vendors.
Learning Point. Do you proceed under the banner of Strategy 1 or Strategy 2 or is there a Strategy 3? Your choice is big deal. The hospital contacts you call on are different. The resources inside your company that you will leverage will be different. How you craft your value proposition will clearly be different for each of the strategies. And, that is just a short list.
There are almost always alternative strategies for pursuing a major piece of business in a B2B account. The question is do you take the time and effort to think through and evaluate the alternative options. Our observation has been too few sales reps do the preparation and planning required generating and evaluating the alternative strategies.
In the heat of the moment and under the obvious time pressures sales reps must work, they either simply do what they did last time to win that type of business or start making sales calls with no particular strategy in mind or they label the account as unwinnable and walk away to spend their time elsewhere.
The take away is – when selling in major accounts you need to think and act strategically. Working hard but only planning one call at a time with no strategy to provide guidance is a great way to consistently come in second.
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