How are you going to compete to win?
by Kevin D. Crone
It’s time to compete – win and achieve what you want for your business. A desired future is something that can’t be managed, predicted, or just wished or waited for. It’s created from re-thinking your market and business, creating a new business strategy and turning it into action and then into reality . Unfortunately, what we know can keep us away from learning what we don’t know.
For the last couple of months, I’ve been working with a group of companies that want to compete with a new, differentiated, go-to market strategy to achieve more sales and growth. The world has changed on all of us. These companies are doing something about it. They are figuring out how to adapt because if they don’t, they’ll stay in a break-even, commoditized, competitive world without any new ways, and will be stuck with their worries and complaints. They need to climb the biggest tree and get a panoramic view of what’s going on, then attack their markets and targeted customers – and be prepared to do battle for their business – to be on the edge rather than on the brink.
I work with two or three companies at a time with a few key people from each company so they learn from each other and, in my meeting/workroom, we stop our fast, chaotic, confusing world for a couple of days and actually think through the following questions. None of these questions are answered with flippant, top-of-mind answers. Answers need to be peeled back to be seen. This creative process takes objective listening and coaching to drag out the answers – despite prejudices, feelings, opinions, and mental-models in a team’s way. When fully answered, they have a big impact on my client’s perspective.
With a new perspective, clear actions are possible. With this new perspective, new strategy, commitment, and action happens. If a group comes in with their minds already made up about what they think they know, and determined to convince everyone else, then no progress is probable.
Here are my Questions:
1) What’s the impact of what you are selling? (We describe it as the offering. It is not just your product. We all know customers buy the total benefit of the total package. My walls were full of sticky, flip chart paper describing the offering. It’s tough selling an offering you can’t describe. Few groups I work with can do it as easily as they think they can. The key to making sales easier is when the offering matches the motives of your customers and you really know it. Very few executive teams have thought through their offering. They spend a lot of their time on operational issues.)
2) Who are your customers? (There are usually multiple types of customers or influencers, even in the same customer company.) What are they like? Describe them.
3) What do they want? What are their motives? (Walls are full of these answers.)
4) Does your offering match? If not, what can you do to match up? How can you describe an improved offering? (Again, more re-thinking.)
5) What would your story be to the market? Describe it. What is your messaging? Does it get attention, tell the issues in the market, and explain what a customer should do and how your offering helps?
6) How would you get your story to market? What are all the ways? What are the best ways? How do you narrowcast to your targets versus broadcast which hasn’t been working well? (For example mass e-mail, mass advertising, etc.)
7) Today, with a demanding, discerning, risk-adverse purchaser who is difficult to reach, tough to open up, and doesn’t believe you’re any different from your competitor – how are you going to sell them? They’re tired of service sellers, product-pedlars and commercial, relationship visitors. How are you going to get their attention with something that changes the perspective of what they need to do to compete? What can you do to create value on every contact? What can you teach your customer that will help them compete? How do you prepare your salespeople to do so? Do they know the offering, story, how to create value, teach for value? What can you do to connect your people so that they have a chance to understand and believe in what you’re offering and how do you plan to sell?
8) After analyzing all of this, we summarize by answering, what is our go-to-market business strategy? Does it answer why any customer would choose you over your competitor? What are your competitors doing? What do they say they do? Is it a unique selling proposition? Do you still think you can answer why customers should choose you?
9) Who are your best opportunity clients? What is your campaign?
10) Who will lead all that needs to be finished in order to get everything and everyone into action?
11) Who will be the leader of how to get and keep momentum?
Can you believe we actually get through all of this? Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. It depends on the commitment of the team to achieve something they want badly enough. Something worth trying despite the risk of not knowing all the answers in advance. It’s funny, some will create quickly and some will spend more time complaining and refuse to create until they have the answers first. Well, for them, it takes longer. Others will have a tough time because they know their products better than they know their customers and competition and don’t realize the product box they’re in.
A sense of vision, a commitment to create and allow possibilities, a sense of urgency and a motivated leader is required to begin. I suggest everyone should do this kind of re-thinking when things are good or bad. If you’re struggling, get off your duff immediately. Especially when things are good so you can leverage your strengths.
What is your group made of? How about you? Are you willing to take the time to climb that tree this spring? There is no guaranteed way to succeed. You can succeed in many ways.
Yet there are two guaranteed ways to fail…
One: To think you’re different. “We don’t have to do the re-thinking.” Remember, as military leaders know, no plan survives engagement with the enemy.
Two: “No sense trying to create a better future until we have everything in place.” (For example, new team, new CRM, or what have you, politics in your company, etc.) Yes, you need engagement and alignment to pull change off but that can evolve depending on how you go about it.
The manager, not the leader, has those kinds of thoughts that cause action inertia. The entrepreneurial leader realizes that he/she will never have everything in place, he/she is always challenging the present and past and represents the possible future by their willingness to examine the truth, the trends, issues, challenges of their markets, and be willing to create new possibilities and action.
Who are you? Yes, our customers are harder to access and sell, and competition is fierce… so is it for your competitors.
The question is: What are you going to do? How are you going to compete to win?
Kevin D. Crone
Dale Carnegie Business Group
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