It was my normal sales meeting. My team patiently awaited my Powerpoint presentation. Yawns flowed freely at the 4:30 mark, and why shouldn’t they? It’s Friday. End of month. Being a Global Sales Director for a start-up is never easy, much less when you are selling in the Software As A Service (SAAS) arena. As I looked across the conference room, my team appeared to mirror what would have been left of the Spartans, had any survived in the movie 300. Beat down by price. Beat down by the trusted names in the space. Everyone in the room was certain they had a great reason for failure thus far. Most common reason? The leading provider. The known and trusted name. The elephant in the room on every presentation. Something needed to change.
I put my first slide up on the screen. It had various denim jeans. For the fashion savvy on my team, some needed no names by the denim, they knew the brand. Others in their time off were more the hunting knife on the belt and jeans from Wal-Mart type of guy, and that is okay too. As you read this, you may be wondering the significance. I am excited to explain (really I am).
No matter what you are selling, it is about presentation and perception. My first slide showed a pair of Levis Jeans. I asked the group who had heard of them. Everyone shook their head yes. The price appeared “$49.00”. Everyone agreed they were the known name in jeans, at least the long trusted powerhouse so to say. The question that comes to mind is simply this: If there are Levis, why would anyone else enter the market? And if they did, how would they get any Market Share? I kept hearing the same excuse. “We lost the client because the other competitor was more well known, had more clients, and in the end, we were a bit more expensive”. My next slide was a pair of Seven for All Mankind Jeans. No one was really all that certain of this brand. The price appeared “$129.00”. The room went silent. I knew I was making my point. Here is a brand that is newer, lesser known, but gives the perception to the buyer that there are not only a better product, but worth paying more for. I closed my third slide with a pair of $245 jeans from Diesel Denim. Denim is much like software sales. Technologies tend to converge and there slowly becomes only a few ways to do certain things within a product sect. Travel & Expense is a great example. Only so many ways to book a flight, get a receipt uploaded, yet there are so many vendors (new companies popping up all the time).
So how do you overcome the elephant in the room?
- Presentation is key. PTP! Push the perception.
- Do not run from the elephant in the room. Embrace it and stand accountable. “Bigger is not always better. Where company XYZ gives you what they think you want, we are able to focus on building a solution that you truly need.
- Speak to the key differentiation. I don’t care if it is something as simple as your customer service is not outsourced. Whatever is your strengths, play them up. Push the Perception.
- Do not run from sticker shock. Explain that while you are more expensive, there is a reason. Hit up benefits of doing business not only with the company, but with you!
Remember. Every company regardless of space has two things top of mind. Attracting and retaining top talent, and doing more with less. Focus on the Return on Investment.
In closing, here is a great example of buying for benefits. I worked the Ford Motor account when I was 28. I was told in the meeting that they chose another vendor because the hardware was being thrown in for free. I asked the gentleman what kind of Ford he bought. I told him I was thinking of getting one. He went on and on about his Ford Expedition. I remarked that I was thinking of a Taurus. I mean they both do the same things right? He spent the next 15 minutes rattling off the benefits of the Ford Expedition over the Taurus. Obviously he spent more, and did so why? You guessed it, the benefits. I smiled and asked for a few more moments of his time. We went over our benefits again, and I walked out with the contract. Push the perception!