I was musing language (as I often do) again today and thinking about the initial engagement in any situation, but probably I was thinking mostly about the very first engagement in a sales situation. This could be a conversation, either by phone or face to face, or more often these days, an email or other form of non-real time communication. Whatever the channel, I was considering the impact of language and in particular the meaning that the recipient makes of the words and structure of those critical first few phrases. I am a firm believer that the conversation needs to be about “the client” and not about me and more importantly what the purpose of the contact is! This thought process led me to consider the positioning of the potential relationship and the consideration from the recipient’s perspective as to whether this was at all important at this early stage, or actually at all.
Inevitably when language becomes mainstream, or commonplace, it loses some of its caché and “advantage” (if it ever had any), and can become almost counter-productive as we see it as “hackneyed” or over-used, and this could be the case if positioning yourself as a partner – rather than just another supplier.
I like to seek out relationships whereby my value can be of real benefit to a client and that is all about “valuing the difference”. In this case the difference is the particular skills and knowledge I have acquired over many years in the telecoms and Unified Communications space, and that which can be of use to the client. I might frame this as me being a “partner” rather than a supplier, i.e. my value is not about a race to provide the lowest cost items, but about taking the stress out of understanding the options and possibilities as well as the unique aims and business values the client holds dear. Marrying these pieces together and considering the real business value of the solutions available merits additional value, which is often unappreciated. My view – for what it’s worth is that if you are investing in a technology that is dynamically changing and evolving, and competitive with multiple strong vendors in the race, then looking way beyond the investment is critical and a trusted advisor relationship is definitely desirable – But what do I know
What’s in it for me? And What are you going to do to help me? These are just two of the key questions any potential channel partner will be asking, presupposing that you can get an invitation to meet in the first place. How quickly can the new partner generate profitable revenues, and who will assist them to price, win and implement their initial sales? Next steps are to really build a significant revenue stream together and manage the support issues and obvious cash management challenges, notwithstanding the “hygiene” factors of ongoing training and relationship- building ongoing trust and goodwill. It is a worthwhile journey if you are committed to this path. One word of caution- don’t do this if investing is something you are trying to avoid – you can’t build success by “allowing” partners just to have access to your offering. You may make a few opportunistic sales, but you won’t build a business.
I watched C4’s Gerry’s Big Decision last week and was hooked – for the uninitiated Sir Gerry Robinson takes a detailed look at failing businesses around the country with a view to potentially investing his own money and helping the business to survive and thrive. The two businesses Gerry looked at last week were an old family furniture business in Lancashire that was on its knees and a small pie making business in the south west. The interesting thing for me was that both businesses were suffering the same issue – NOT ENOUGH SALES. The furniture business had issues with poor communication and relationship between the owner and the Managing Director, and I observed a lack of sales focus generally – for example there was no incentive in place for the sales people to grow/develop the business.
Both businesses appeared to have good products which were saleable, yet as we all know nothing will happen until a sale is made. I don’t believe for a minute that this is in any way unique, and indeed why there is a need to ensure that you have an effective (and integrated) sales and marketing plan that covers the basics such as
- Having the right sales people in the team representing you
- An effective customer segmentation map
- A clear customer contact strategy
- A clear “value proposition” for the product – a good example of this was the furniture manufacturer was not crisp about the product guarantees which could be deal maker/breakers
Finally the only sales people we saw was the one representing the pie manufacturer, who to be blunt was a square peg in a round hole and had very little idea what his approach should be and who his customers would be and I guess sales in general. His approach was at best parochial and he was not considering where the product could be sold. As Donald Trump says – “If you’re going to be thinking, you may as well think big.”