Today's post was written by Jonathan London, founder and president of the sales and leadership training company Improved Performance Group. He is a respected speaker, trainer, coach, consultant, and author.
One of the most important elements of sales success is to try and sell your product or service, as much as possible, where you have unique advantage or the strongest fit possible. This is your "sweet spot," where you will win most often.
The experience related below occurred more than 30 years ago but is as relevant today as it was then (if not more so).
My first job was selling Olivetti typewriters. (For those of you who don't know, a typewriter is an ancient device that puts pen to paper.) At the time, I was 22 years old and had no experience. My biggest competitor was IBM, who had approximately 93 percent market share. People would buy hundreds of IBM typewriters at list price and then store them, because they never knew when they would need one and were afraid they might not be able to get one from IBM in a timely fashion. It was a measure of prestige to have an IBM Selectric on your desk.
After panicking for about 90 days, I asked for advice from a more experienced and successful salesperson, who helped me see things clearly. He suggested that I look at what my typewriter could do that IBM's couldn't. He also suggested that I concentrate on industries and applications where these unique capabilities might be critical to business. That would give me an advantage over the almighty and powerful IBM.
So that's what I did. I had to make sure there was enough volume in these industries and applications to be successful, and that is all I focused on.
I became much more intelligent about how and what people needed in these industries or applications (architecture, finance, legal, etc). I learned the terms and acronyms they used and had many references, so I was much more credible. I was able to demonstrate and differentiate my product in a much more relevant way. The best example of this is when I presented my typewriter to an architecture firm that needed to create wide documents with symbols unique to the industry – all things that I could offer and IBM could not. The prospect needed many typewriters and asked me for a discount. I said I couldn't offer a discount (because I knew this was the perfect solution for this firm, and the value was a fair one). The firm ordered all the typewriters it needed.
By focusing in this way, I became the number one salesperson for four years in a row. Since then, I have applied this concept to every sales or management position I have had, with the same exceptional results. It has helped me through three recessions, and, as an entrepreneur, has helped me win business against my biggest competitors.
I have used this concept
- to manage my sales teams at PictureTel, and we became the world's most successful sales team four years in a row;
- in 2000, as president of IPG, to sell every major video, audio, and Web-conferencing provider, since clients needed my services to sell more;
- in 2008, emphasizing my pricing solutions so people could buy my services more easily than the competition's.
Some examples of how my clients have used this concept:
1. reselling and repackaging what was done for some of their biggest opportunities (research and analysis that they did internally) as unique offerings
2. turning perceived disadvantages (not having as much technology or service as the biggest competitors, for example) into unique selling advantages or the right blend of benefits
3. focusing all or most of their selling efforts on three or four verticals and abandoning efforts to sell in other industries
How Do You Define Your Sweet Spot?
You should define
a. what your company's unique strengths are
b. who your most successful clients are (what industries or applications)
c. your own personal knowledge
d. where you or your company tend to win more often
e. where you are best connected or networked
Then choose the three (or four, if you can manage it) best industries and horizontal applications (sales, finance, etc.) that you should sell to. Then find the names of the companies that are the best fit for you, and enter their information into your CRM or buy the information from a company that supplies it (Hoover's, Jigsaw, OneSource, etc.). Most often, there are more opportunities than you could possibly cover.
Then go after them with a vengeance, and don't be distracted. This works and gets you the best results.
For more from Jonathan, visit his blog, Jonathan London's Real Advice.