Sales Strategy

Strategy: It’s About Making Choices

I find most people over-think strategy.  They feel it’s complex, full of buzzwords, too theoretical. For smaller businesses, some think strategy is something for large corporations who can afford to have strategic planning departments.
Some companies spend their time crafting mission statements.  It’s not that mission statements are a bad idea. A good mission statement will be a way of expressing the company’s underlying strategy. When the mission statement is developed without being founded on a strategy, it usually comes out vague, wishy-washy and meaningless to most employees and customers.

Strategy is really all about making choices and it’s not as complex as people think. In truth, there are only 3 basic strategies to choose from.  

Where most people go wrong is not sticking to a single strategy or not aligning the other elements of their business plan around a single strategic principle. Another trap is focusing on tactics rather than strategy. Your tactics may be sending mixed messages to your customers because they are drawn from multiple types of strategy instead of consistently following a single strategic direction.

3 Basic Strategies, Strategy is about choicesMichael Porter has an interesting way of phrasing it: “Strategy is what allows you to say “no” to the things you shouldn’t do.”
We’re going to discuss the basics of strategy over the course of the next few weeks.  What we promise is to keep it simple. No buzzwords. No charts or diagrams.
 
A colleague of mine recently did a presentation on strategy for a business networking group and I liked the way he structured it.  He used the analogy of a triathlon: three different sports – cycling, swimming and running. Winning triathletes don’t win because they’re the best at all three sports.  They win because they’re tops in one sport and just good at the other two.
In a similar way,  business can be broken down into 3 strategic elements: Product (or Service), Operations and Customer Focus.

A concept I learned from some of the sales people who worked for me –  the 3-legged stool – shows how simple it can be to apply strategic principles. They offer the customer a choice of three things: Product, Price and Service.  The customer can only have two of those three things, and the third they have to concede to the sales person.  For example, if a customer wants great products and excellent service, he will have to accept that he will have to pay a premium for these.  If it’s price and service, the customer will have to make some concessions product quality or features.

 At the overall business level, the three strategic directions a company can take are:
  1. Product Leadership – sometimes known as innovation
  2. Operational Excellence – sometimes referred to as “low-cost producer”
  3. Customer Intimacy
Next week, we’ll discuss what Product Leadership means and how it can be applied in your business.  Don’t feel disappointed if you don’t think Product Leadership is right for your company. It’s OK to not follow that path. It just means you will have to make a choice between the other two types of strategy.

Selling Strategy Part 1: Awareness

We said it before:  when you are in transition you need to know how to sell yourself to land that next opportunity.

If you’re in a sales or marketing role, you probably have a good idea how to proceed.  But, if your background is in some other field, you may not fully realize the  steps required to find a new employer and close the deal.

One of the simplest models for advertising or selling is called AIDA – an acronym for Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. It’s not the only model for the sales process, but it’s intuitive and easier to understand than the others.

We’re going to focus today on the first part – awareness.

Importance of AwarenessTo the right you’ll see a magazine ad from 1958 that was run by McGraw-Hill Magazines.  It shows someone – presumably a purchasing manager – who is trying to understand why he should buy what you’re selling.

He’s saying, “I don’t know who you are”, “I don’t know your company”, “I don’t know your company’s reputation”. The ad may be old, but the message hasn’t changed.

The message is that, unless someone knows about you, they can’t develop any reasons why they should do business with you.  You have to build awareness of yourself.

So, as a job seeker, what can you do to help potential hiring managers aware of you?

Social Media Presence

One place you can start is by ensuring you have a profile on the primary social media sites that employers and recruiters search to find potential hires.

Here are what are considered to be the Top 5:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Google+
  3. ZoomInfo
  4. FaceBook
  5. Jobster

ZoomInfo creates profiles by extracting data about people from public sites. Unlike the other platforms, you need to CLAIM your profile to take ownership over it.  Go into ZoomInfo and search for your name to see if a profile exists that looks like it could be you.  You’ll find an option to claim the profile by setting up an account and password.

SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVITY

Just having a presence on one of these sites is not sufficient for someone to find you easily.  You need to be an active participant.

LinkedIn has literally thousands of special-interest groups you can join. Your regular LinkedIn membership allows you to join up to 50 groups.  Choose ones that are relevant to your industry, your profession or others that just are of interest to you.  Many groups have job postings and/or job discussions, so it’s one way for you to become aware of employment opportunities.

You also can increase your awareness within these groups by participating in the discussions. Clicking on a “Like” icon is a start, but not very effective by itself.  It’s more important to start discussions or add comments to discussions posted by other group members.

TRADE SHOWS and CONFERENCES

Most professions have some kind of conference program and most industries have trade shows.  You probably attended these while you were employed.

It’s important to continue this kind of activity – especially if you are in some kind of leadership role.  Conferences and Trade Shows also provide networking opportunities and attending allows you to inform people you meet about your search for a new position – which brings us to our last suggestion.

NETWORKING GROUPS and EVENTS

Try to identify networking groups for your industry and/or profession and join them.  Sometimes, these can be events put on by a professional association. Sometimes they’re related to alumni from your college or university.

Try to supplement these by finding groups that have diverse membership, and so you are not networking with potential competitors for the kind of role you are seeking.

The important thing about networking is that, as you expand your network, the number of potential contacts within your network grows exponentially.  This is why networking is considered the most important job search activity of all.