Sunday, June 2, 2013

Petra- Lessons in Building Competitive Barriers-

We just finished visiting Israel and Jordan. The primary reason to go to Jordan, other than seeing the wonderful city of Amman, was to see Petra, long on my “bucket “list. It turned out to be one of a handful of places in the world that deserves to be on everyone’s “top 5” list. Situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and inhabited since prehistoric times, the rock-cut capital city of the Nabateans, became a major caravan centre for the incense of Arabia, the silks of China and the spices of India. During Hellenistic and Roman times it was a crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia. Petra is half-built, half-carved into rock and is surrounded by mountains riddled with passages and gorges. The dramatic city, built in the first century AD features rock cut temple/tombs, an amphitheatre, homes, shops and crypts. We approached via a natural winding rocky clef called the Siq. The Siq is the gorge formed by torrents of flood water called the Musa, which the Nabataeans blocked with a dam and channeled to carry drinking water to the city. Once inside, the Siq narrows to little more than 12 feet wide, with walls towering up hundreds of feet on either side. It is a masterpiece of a lost city that has fascinated visitors since its “discovery” early in the 19th century. The most recognizable building, The Khazneh el Faroun, or the Treasury, is an imposing facade standing some 120 feet tall, cut directly from the rock of the mountainside. It is an architectural and sculptural achievement of the highest caliber. As I walked the mile plus through the winding Siq to the city, it occurred to me that this was an exceptional example of how these people built a competitive barrier. It’s an example we should incorporate into our sales efforts, because it is as important to create effective competitive barriers as it is to successfully present what needs to be a winning solution. These barriers can and should include: A Solid Relationship This does not mean to make the prospect a friend. That may happen over time, but it’s a fallacy to believe people buy from people they like. People buy from people they trust who add value to the business relationship. An effective barrier includes reference accounts, customer endorsements and testimonials. Competitive barriers also include a “listening” focus that is legitimate and sufficiently sharp to process the nuances of what the customer is saying. The ability to repeat accurately what the customer thinks he has said, and to design a solution that exceeds his expectations, must be incorporated into a sales professional’s process. An effective sales person contributes edifying ideas and concepts that are new to the customer. This represents value that makes the solution one that exceeds the customer’s requirements and makes it a unique proposal. Recognize the importance of the trust- bond. That is the position reached when the prospect accepts that the salesperson is truly working to develop a solution that will exceed his requirements. Far too often salespeople focus nearly exclusively on the merits of the features and benefits of their product/service, largely because it’s all they are trained to do by their organizations. This key truth cannot and should not be overlooked. It is far more important to have established a relationship based on a differentiated solution that clearly matches the prospects articulated requirements than it is to be “liked.” It leads to the purchase criteria every prospect goes through which includes: Form, Feel and Fee When people buy, they emotionally rate these three areas every time they make a purchase. Violating one of them can often be the reason for a lost sale: Form: “Does it meet or exceed my requirements; has he listened to me and designed a solution that works for us?” Feel: “Does this feel like a person and an organization I’d like to do business with, and do I believe they will deliver as promised?” Fee: “Is it a fair price and within my ability to pay it?” Respecting the buyer’s process. Truly successful sales people know that they have a superior ability to “take the customer out of the market.” They are successful in establishing the trust-bond and in matching their services/products well with a customer’s requirements. When the customer does buy, it will be from the one they trust. They accept that they cannot and should not try to materially alter the buyer’s process, for doing so will violate the trust-bond, and likely result in a number of adverse consequences not the least of which is sacrificing margin. Far too often, those in desperate need to meet a quota deadline will offer a concession to win the deal earlier than the customer was prepared to authorize it. In a great many cases the incentive comes in the form of a price reduction—“if I could get a lower price, would you order this month?” It’s a lose/lose question because: 1. The trust-bond has been broken. The customer now knows he didn’t get the best price his sales person could have offered. 2. The sales person has sacrificed margin, making the transaction and his company less profitable. 3. The customer must do abnormal things to make the sale happen, which he’ll both learn from and resent. It is much more effective to manage the pipeline better, spend more time developing prospects and less time trying to force a deal before its time. Don’t misinterpret “the customer is always right.” The customer is right about his desires, perhaps even his requirements. Often they really don’t know what they don’t know. They have come seeking advice and guidance in their purchase decision. Customers want to be educated, to be shown a better way, to have their needs/requirements refined. They don’t want to make a mistake and be “sold” what they asked for, when they can do better with some expert guidance. Listen, interpret their comments, and then offer a solution that adds value to the transaction. Just like Petra, it’s imperative to build these competitive barriers, while building trust and offering a superior solution. When this is successfully practiced, sales performance dramatically increases!

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