I have news (or at least what appears to be news) for most businesses out there – your prospects don’t actually care about when your company was founded, where you are located, why you changed locations, when you did, or even what your cat’s name is. SO, STOP LEADING OFF YOUR PRESENTATIONS WITH SOME VARIATION OF About Us.
Sorry for sounding so arrogant, but I just reviewed another presentation for a client with a glitzy cover page, then three pages about their history, and four pages showing pictures of the all wonderful things they’ve done. Don’t get me wrong. This company has a great history, and they do wonderful stuff. Just put that in the back of your presentation.
Remember, nobody cares about you until they understand how much they are cared about. Make your presentations about your customers. Lead off with their issues. Demonstrate that you understand their problems. Show them how you solve them. Communicate the results they’ll get for having worked with. Who knows? Then they may not even need to know about your history to trust and buy from you.
Those who know me know I loves me some good quality steak – especially a medium rare New York Strip. They also know that the only thing that doesn’t go well with steak (IMHO) is a commercial pitch. So it is rare that I find myself enjoying a great steak at a business function.
Last night was the exception, as I had the unique privilege (thanks to the Washington Chapter of EO) to enjoy a fine steak at Morton’s and hear a presentation from Morton’s very own Chairman, CEO & President Thomas Baldwin. Mr. Baldwin was hospital, gracious, entertaining, and very insightful. I highly recommend the Morton’s experience. They made me feel welcomed and served me as an individual, even though there were more than 70 present.
Enough with the commercial – now to the point of the blog. Baldwin provided insights that every fast growth executive should keep forefront in their mind. Here are the highlights – ignore them at your peril.
- The road to good service is paved with mistakes – well handled (that insight is worth the costs of a year’s worth of Morton’s dinners).
- In response to how a premium offering deals with today’s recession: I can’t worry about the recession – I can only worry about the things I can control.
- In response to how Morton’s is managing during the recession: We’re controlling our costs, cutting overhead where we can, executives are not getting raises or bonuses – but the guest hasn’t seen any of it.
- Food is wine, wine is food – that’s our philosophy (it’s also probably why Morton’s averages 15-20% more per head than its competitors with little advertising).
- If it’s not perfect, we don’t send it to the guest.
- The whole idea is to be genuine.
- They train and reward – maniacally (my word, not his).
- People who work with you will fail. I will fail. The key is to keep it a minimum – and when it happens, fix it.
All those tidbits and a great NY Strip to boot – who could ask for more?
Today, the announcement came that Pfizer is buying Wyeth for $68 billion. While the normal spin is taking place about synergies, and how 1+1=3; the fact of the matter is that this mega-merger is being fueled by the dominant driver for mergers of these types – weakness.
Pfizer has lost its way. It no longer creates value, its drug pipeline has weakened and it has become increasingly commoditized. The executives depend on the short-term value of the stock for their wealth, so what’s the easiest way to get Wall Street to believe you have a plan? Buy something.
While I have not studied this merger in any depth, I have no problem making the prediction that this merger will further dilute returns for stockholders. The more effective strategy, albeit a much tougher path, would have been to get back to basics and to focus on solving unique problems for unique people. It may have meant that Pfizer needed to cut old, traditional lines of business to focus on real opportunities for growth. Throw this merger in with Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch, and of Citigroup’s purchases, or AOL’s purchase of Time Warner.
This merger is further proof that the reason we are suffering the recessionary environment we are in has far more to do with traditional companies inabilities to create value. Steve McKee, who writes the blog When Growth Stalls, has had some interesting takes on recent mergers, and I’m sure he’ll have something worth reading on this one.
I find it interesting that most mergers (at least the one’s that make the news) are driven from a position of weakness. Those mergers rarely, if ever, work. Mergers from strength can work. The interesting point is that strong companies don’t feel the need to merge nearly as much, and as a result find the path of creating value is from more effective.
What should a reader of this blog do now? Make sure you are creating value. To help you do so, you can take The Value Creation Audit™. If you’d like a copy – just send me an email, or leave a comment.
Recently, a client asked me for advice on the strategy of their website. I’ve written about the accidental power of your website before, and I firmly believe that when properly utilized, your website provides a tremendous opportunity to grow your business, make powerful new relationship, and cement old ones. Done improperly, your website can be the greatest commoditizing force you face.
I thought I’d share my thoughts with you (name and some data altered to protect the client’s identity):
Your website has two purposes:
- On purpose: someone looking for specific information for a specific purpose, fully aware they were going to your site.
- Accidental Visitor: There are several ways an accidental visitor can come:
- Word-of-mouth: They’ve heard about you, been referred, whatever – but they are not clear on who you are nor are they clear if there is anything they need or what they would need.
- Search query: They’ve searched to answer a question and a your page comes up.
- Blog entry or link: Similar to search query, our page has been linked to by someone for some unrelated purpose.
Actions for the accidental visitor:
- Positioning is critical. If you are perceived as an “provider,” then we are commoditized and may never get a chance.
- Beginning the conversation, content should exist on the site that encourages the visitor to come back. In essence: how does the site begin the conversation (and encourage reaching out) when there is no direct sale on the block.
- Create thought leadership. This is what will causes incoming links – critical to broadening our audience and increasing search engine positioning.
- Frame the conversation:
- What a company says about itself and how it positions itself unconsciously frames the conversation. We need to frame the conversation to be: how do you solve the problems you don’t know you have.
- Teach vocabulary: one of the biggest problems facing companies today is that their customers don’t have the vocabulary to understand the problems that the selling company solves. They think things are fine, because they don’t know any better. Vocabulary helps create awareness of problems.
- Create awareness:
- Obviously, we want to create awareness of your company
- As, or more, importantly we need to create awareness of problems that the customer is unaware of. We do this by creating diagnostic interaction that creates awareness.
I was talking with a client and friend of mine about the challenges facing salespeople today. We were discussing the need for salespeople to take a more focused approach that went deep with a prospect, rather than the far more frequent approach that focuses on volume and activity over depth.
As we were discussing salespeople who went deep vs. those that did not, I made the observation, “It’s interesting, because Person A (who doesn’t go deep) is considered a relationship salesperson, while Person B (who goes deep and produces more with fewer opportunities) is considered a task-oriented salesperson and is not thought of as a relationship salesperson. Yet, Person B is the one who really builds meaningful, compelling relationships.”
As I thought about the issue more (and followers of this blog know that I’ve written about relationship selling before), I realized that what most people call relationship selling is really, what I am now calling, “acquaintance-ship” selling. These salespeople, while they potentially have “big rolodexes” don’t really have meaningful, compelling relationships.
Acquaintance-ship salespeople focus on stuffing more and more opportunities into the pipeline, figuring that if they can be “actively working” 100 or 200 opportunities (and in some cases even more), then certainly something will come through. In good markets, acquaintance-ship selling can even look like it produces consistent results. The reality is far from that, however.
The problem is that acquaintance-ship selling relies on the law of large numbers. While, in the short-term and in good markets, it produces what looks like results, the reality is that the salesperson is not really selling – they’re merely picking up sales that were going to happen anyway. They create very little value and they commoditize the offering and the organization.
You know your sales team is practicing acquaintance-ship selling when the following are true:
- The focus is on quantity of activity rather than quality (BTW, it is rare that one can practice any more than acquaintance-ship selling if there are more than 20 late pipeline prospects and 50 total).
- You see “false positives” in the sales process.
- When querying your salesperson on what is happening in an account or prospect, the salesperson does not clearly articulate the compelling reason for a buy, nor the compelling barriers that must be overcome.
Acquaintance-ship selling is very costly to any growth organization. It makes the pipeline highly vulnerable to competition and/or market shifts, it eats up more and more resources in an effort to “keep the balls in the air” and it fails to create compelling value – further commoditizing your company and making it more difficult to succeed.
With all of the (much needed) talk about how we are going to stimulate the economy and attempt to get things back on a forward track it’s quite easy to get confused. Today’s Wall Street Journal has a great editorial from Sam Palmisano, Chariman/CEO of IBM, discussing how the government can invest for growth.
It’s a must read. It’s well written, well thought, and on point. Additionally, it has lessons for all business leaders on how even when the short-term interests and the long-term interests seem to no longer align, with a little thought and creativity they just might. My favorite quote from the article: “Rather than just stimulate, we should transform.”
Consultants (myself included) have a tendency to make things more complicated than they often need to be. In today’s environment, there are hundreds (or more) ideas being floated around to help companies survive and thrive in the difficult market we are in. The advice can be so overwhelming that business executives shut down.
In an effort to energize you to take action, let me synthesize all of the advice into two, simple words: Become Irreplaceable.
Think about it – how much more secure would your revenue base be if your customers/clients felt you were irreplaceable; if you were absolutely necessary? How much faster would you grow, and how much more profitable would that growth be?
Ask yourself what would your customers/clients have to feel to think about you as being indispensable? Now, what’s the first action you have to take to get them feeling that way?
Go do it.
An excellent post from Rick Liebling at Eyecube on the philosophy of The Brand Called You. His take – the idea is dead. Now the focus is on “The Brand You Build.” How do you do that? By doing what a brand was always supposed to do – create unique value. Liebling’s take is dead-on accurate – it’s well worth the read. (BTW, if you scroll down the comments you can see my take.)
So ask yourself – are you creating unique value?
Stop what you’re doing and answer this question:
It’s April 1st, 2009, and you’re reviewing the first quarter of the year. Precisely, how will you measure success? What will it take to give yourself an ‘A’?
Are you done with the list?
Now, choose the single most important item – if you could only achieve one item on your list, what would it be?
Why is answering this question so important? Because, we all have a tendency to try to do too much and to lose focus. The key to success, especially in challenging markets, is to focus. It is far, far better to overallocate resources to fewer opportunities than it is to underallocate resources to many. Don’t ever lose sight of what is most important – and ensure that you overallocate your resources – time, money and energy – to that.
What to exponentialize the results? Have every single person in your company answer the same question and post the answers in a central location – or company wiki.
If you like the benefit of public accountability, share your most important success in the comments section. Mine? Next four new enterprise clients.