“Sacred cows make the best hamburger…”
A few weeks ago I called about a dozen sales leaders and asked, "What is the biggest challenge facing your team today". All but two said competition. Too many people in the market and they are all offering low prices. The other two both said it was time management. Which approach is more likely to improve their business result? Many of the sales people I work with say they wish for lower prices and better products or services. If only the technical people would get going and give them that "new and improved" product with a real advantage. Or maybe it is time to move their production offshore so they can reduce costs and offer their clients a cheaper price.
Do your sales people sometimes wish for these things? Do you?
We sometimes wish for the simple answers. The magic bullets that will turn our results around overnight. Who among us hasn’t wished for the big lotto win that will make our problems go away. But when we are asked, most of us understand that these big wins don’t always lead to happiness. Or in the long run, any change for the better at all.
So is a superior product or lower price the guarantee to success in today’s market? I don’t think so.
We can all list the superior products that failed to secure their place in the market. Which video system was technically superior, VHS or Beta? Know anyone with a Beta? Which computer was simple to learn, easier to use and more reliable, the IBM PC or the Apple Mac?
Now it takes a very loyal user to buy Apple, knowing that you won’t be compatible with most of your clients.
"Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door". Remember that one?
Back in the 80’s, I even saw that better mousetrap. I was in the packaging business and a bright fellow worked out a way to use a piece of cardboard and a rubber band to make a neat, clean, disposable, and cheap mousetrap. He was going to buy millions of them. But we never saw the second order.
Every year thousands of new products are introduced. All with supposed advantages that will make them sure successes. And most fail. While thousands of companies making me-too products, with no apparent advantages over their competitors, still make a good living.
So when I hear someone else wishing for these magic bullets again, I remember an old quotation that reminds me what to do.
Drawing on my fine command of language, I said nothing.
I just let them daydream for a while about how wonderful it would be if this, or that. We all enjoy dreaming sometimes. And it is still educational to listen. If you are feeling brave and have the time, it is useful to ask about their problems.
Specifically, what is holding you back?
Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?" Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."
What to Do
But after listening to their tough problems in the marketplace I ask, "What are you going to do?" If there is a shortage of ideas, this question can be rephrased as "What would the best salesperson in the world do in this situation?"
Most of us have some tasks that we do really well. We enjoy doing them. And we will gladly make time to do them. But when there are other important jobs that we don’t enjoy, sometimes we complain we don’t have the time.
When was the last time you said, "I just don’t have the time"?
Was it about time? Or just an excuse to avoid doing something you don’t enjoy. If you spend enough time thinking about something you don’t like, you can create a real problem for yourself
If you have to eat a frog, you shouldn’t look at it too long. If there are several, eat the biggest first.
It is not an accident that many salespeople do their prospecting first thing in the morning. Done regularly it just becomes part of the routine. And when you convert something you don’t enjoy into a routine, you avoid the worst part, thinking about it.
So which would produce the better result’? Improving the product or organizing your efforts?
"Winners have simply formed the habit of doing things losers don’t like to do. "