5,000 : 30,000. The Sales Process as a Competitive Advantage

I just read an interesting article on Swisster.ch.

In 2009, more than 5,000 companies went bankrupt in Switzerland.  That’s the highest number on record.  And further down in the article, another interesting statistic pops up.  Over 30,000 new companies started up last year.  Does anyone believe that these proportions are limited to Switzerland?

One driver of the 30,000 start-ups was, you guessed it,

the fall of the 5,000 companies.  Most of the start-ups were one-, two- or a few-man bands. (Pardon the gender reference here.  Just tapping a timeless expression.)  Most of the bankrupt companies were, as the article suggests, mid-size companies of up to 900 employees.  And let’s not think for a moment that the deathly bankruptcies were the only driver.  Downsizing has been the only means of survival for many mid-size and large companies.  Who’s upsizing?

Therein lies the core of “Selling in the Brave New World.”  Freelancers, start-ups, consultants, boutiques.  They’re the norm today.  Just walk in to any coffee shop.  Those aren’t poets working on laptops and holding meetings in jeans.  They (we?) are the entrepreneurs of the Brave New World.  And most of them (us!) are selling B2B.  That’s all fine and good, but here comes the rub.  We now have more competitors than ever.

Whereas before we had to watch out for the Big Corporate Machine that had all the muscle, we could still beat the Big Machine by being faster, more innovative, or maybe even a bit cheaper (er, providing-better-value-because-we-have-lower-overheads,-thank-you).  And while the Big Machine had more people and, with that, more sales people, it probably had just one sales person in your territory/sector/marketplace.

But guess what?  The Big Machine might now be weakened, but for every Big Machine, there are a half-dozen smaller machines (5,000 : 30,000 = 1 : 6).  And each one of them is in your territory, sector.  Each one of them is… knocking on your client’s door!

How are you going to beat these nimble, innovative, numerous, usually lean and sometimes mean competitors?  What’s your competitive advantage?  Is it your product or service?  Sorry.  That’s not enough.  It might be enough to keep business, but it’s not enough to get it.  Sorry!

Today, any competitive advantage in a product has to be accompanied by excellence in selling.

Buyers won’t know how good your product is until they buy it… if they buy it… and then use it for some length of time.  For the buyer, that’s a gamble.  If they don’t trust you, they’ll never get beyond step b, as in “buy it.”  Nope.  Your product or service is not enough to win new business… but you are.

Buyers will know how good you are during the first sales call.  They will know if they trust you… they will know if you add value… right from the beginning of the sales process… long before you earn the right to send them an invoice.

This is the road you must travel in the Brave New World of Selling.  It’s a longer road than before.  And it’s a more complex world than before.  But buyers need trustworthy, value-add partners… more than ever before.

Don’t look at this Brave New World as an obstacle.  See it as an opportunity.  Use it to your competitive advantage.