Sales White Paper: Competitive Advantage And Your Unique Business Value


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What does it means to be unique? And how can this help you achieve a competitive advantage? If you spend time selling to an account, clearly you want to win their business. So how can you create the foundation to secure the win?

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Sales White Paper: Competitive Advantage And Your Unique Business Value

  1. 1. Competitive Advantage and Your Unique BusinessValue WHITE PAPER
  2. 2. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 1 CREATINGVALUE Your competitive positioning and Unique BusinessValue are determined by your customer’s Business Initiatives, Compelling Events and the project they’re executing to address one or more of their initiative’s‘Critical Success Factors’.This project of course creates your sales opportunity. An example will help: Let’s start with the company’s business profile.The company is a local bank, called Old Bank.They have been in business for 15 years in the same town with the same customers. Business Drivers are significant pressures that weigh heavy on the mind of the executive.This business pressure is that Old Bank is losing customers to a new bank, called New Bank, part of a chain that has just built a new bank in the town. Old Bank has lost so many customers to New Bank that they must find a way to address the loss.They Competitive Advantage andYour Unique BusinessValue INTRODUCTION ThisWhite Paper discusses what it means to be unique and how you achieve competitive advantage. If you spend time selling to an account, clearly you would like to win the business. So how do we create the foundation to secure the win? As with any of ourWhite Papers, there will be a big variance in the seniority and experience of the readership. Some of you will perhaps be in your first sales representative role, looking to focus on what’s really important in the deal. Others may be more seasoned sales leaders, at Director, Managing Partner orVP level, tuning in to make sure you’re in step with the latest thinking and technologies.ThisWhite Paper aims to provide something for the complete range of requirements, since the ideas and recommendations have applicability right up the leadership hierarchy. However, if you want to dig deeper, or move wider, we urge you to get in touch with us individually.You can do this via email to: The agenda for thisWhite Paper will cover 4 main topics: • Creating value • Strengthening your position • Outmaneuvering the competition • Managing your team to succeed implement an initiative to increase customer investments in the bank.The‘Compelling Event’is an event that forces a customer to take action.The compelling event is that Old Bank must increase the customer base, and ultimately the money deposited, or they will continue to lose customers. Critical Success Factors (‘CSFs’) for Old Bank could revolve around a target amount of customer events by a target date. The CSFs drive the customer’s project – your opportunity. You create value by determining which capabilities will best help the customer execute the project and initiative successfully, then packaging those into a complete solution. You position yourself, relative to you competitors, by focusing on those capabilities that are your unique strengths and create superior value for the customer.
  3. 3. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 2 This means that you have to create Competitive Advantage and Unique BusinessValue one deal at a time.There is no such thing as absolute Competitive Advantage or Unique Business Value.You cannot rely on your company’s value proposition or marketing messages to ensure a win.You have to adapt those to the specifics of each buying situation, which are determined by the key issues that the customer has decided are important. So your competitive positioning and Unique BusinessValue are not just about understanding those issues and selecting the right capabilities. Rather, they are really about your influencing the customer’s opinions and decisions about which issues are most important and how they should best be addressed. If the customer decides that the most important issues are those that you best address, then by default you have Competitive Advantage and can create Unique Business Value. If not, then at best you’ll be competing on a level field, and at worst one of your competitors has the advantage. The key, therefore, to creating Competitive Advantage is to determine which issues will create value for the customer and which you can address better than your competition, and to determine who within the customer’s organization can decide or influence those issues or decision criteria. So creating advantage and Unique BusinessValue starts with understanding the customer’s Business Drivers, Business Initiative and Compelling Event. But that’s just the start. There are countless issues that the customer must consider and address to ensure their success. It is those issues and their specifics that determine the details of your competitive positioning and Unique BusinessValue.The customer’s challenge is to sort through those issues, determine which ones are the most important, and how to best address them. Once those issues have been determined, your challenge is to then select the right capabilities that are your strengths and best address those issues. This challenge is made more difficult by the fact that the Drivers, Initiatives and Compelling Events that create the projects that are unique to each customer at a given point in time. Thus the value required by the customer will also be unique in each case, which in turn means that the specific issues that the customer must address are also unique to each opportunity. Business Profile Business Drivers Differen- tiation Solution Capabilities Compelling Event Unique Business Value Business Initiatives Critical Success Factors • Customer’s Project • Your Opportunity
  4. 4. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 3 At this point, you want to leverage the Compelling Event and your executive credibility to create advantage and ultimately Unique BusinessValue. You can’t create value without a Compelling Event, and you can’t influence the buying criteria without executive credibility. If you have that credibility, they will listen to your ideas on how to best address their needs. For the purposes of thisWhite Paper, assume a compelling event exists and you have established executive credibility. You use your understanding of the compelling event to anticipate the key issues and the capabilities that you have that can address those issues. You then assess the value that can be created by addressing those issues with your capabilities. Next you deploy that value and your credibility to gain additional inside support, which in turn enables you to influence the informal decision criteria. You want the key players to think that the issues that your strengths best address are the most important. These then get included in the formal decision criteria, which in turn enable you to enhance your Unique BusinessValue. You then use that value and its impact on the agendas of the key players to create political alignment. If the decision criteria include the issues that represent your strengths, and not those that represent those of your competitors, then you have Competitive Advantage. If you then do a good job articulating the value of your solution, and connect that to the agendas of the key players – then you should win. It is worth exploring this strengthening process in a little more detail.... STRENGTHENINGYOUR POSITION Let’s walk through a process that you could go through to create Competitive Advantage and Unique Business Value. First, based on your understanding of the customer’s situation, you anticipate the key issues that the customer will consider and how they might best address them. You then match your capabilities to those issues, and identify the issues that your capabilities can uniquely address, or address better than your competition. These are the issues that you want to ensure become key issues. If the customer thinks these are the most important ones, then you’ll have Competitive Advantage because they can only be addressed or best addressed by your capabilities. You also need to identify those issues that you don’t address very well. You need to make sure that these do not become key issues, or if they do, you need to minimize their importance. You then identify the key players that decide or influence the key issues, and determine their business and personal agendas. These issues will become the most important if you show them how they impact both business value and their agendas. Next you analyze the competition. You go through the same exercise as if you were the competitor’s sales person, who of course wants the issues that they handle well to be the most important, and the ones that they don’t to be excluded. Remember they’re trying to create Competitive Advantage too. You then ensure that the informal criteria and the decision criteria include the issues that you handle well, and exclude those that you don’t handle so well, or that the competitors address well. Once you’ve done this – you have Competitive Advantage. Of course the key to doing this is to develop inside support and earn executive credibility. The key players decide which issues are important, so this is all about influencing them. Having the decision criteria stacked in your favor then means you can create a stronger value proposition, which you use to create political alignment by connecting that value to the agendas of the key players.
  5. 5. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 4 You then conduct a more comprehensive competitive analysis – starting with your own position. You should analyze your own strengths and weaknesses, focusing on how your capabilities map to the key issues in the formal and informal decision criteria, and on the inside support and executive credibility that you currently have, which you will need to influence the criteria. If your capabilities and solution best address the issues included in the decision criteria, and you have better inside support and executive credibility, then you’re in a good position. You then analyze each of your competitors. In particular you want to understand who they are aligned with, their strengths and weaknesses relative to the key issues, and anticipate how they will try to create competitive advantage. In other words, which issues will they focus to create advantage? This enables you to understand your current competitive position, which competitor represents your biggest threat, and most importantly to understand which issues you want to ensure are excluded or included in the decision criteria. The first step is to analyze the key issues included in the decision criteria and their relative priority. Early in the opportunity these will more likely be in the form of informal criteria – in other words, in the minds of the individuals involved rather than formalized on paper. From this you determine what they think are the most important issues and how they should best be addressed. You then compare these to your strengths and weaknesses. Throughout this process you need to be influencing the customers’opinions by asking pointed questions that get them to think about issues that you handle well, and the value that can be created by addressing those issues. That gets the customers to understand their importance, which in turn starts them down the path of prioritizing those issues. This analysis then helps you determine your competitive position in terms of how well you address each of the issues included in the decision criteria.
  6. 6. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 5 capabilities into the impact that you make on their success – which will be greater than that of your competitors. Better yet, if they include issues that only you can address – then you truly have unique value – value that they cannot get from any of your competitors. Once you’ve articulated your business impact you then focus on enhancing executive credibility and proving that you can deliver what you say you can. The lower your executive credibility and the less they believe that you can actually deliver, the more they will discount your value proposition. So you want to maximize your own credibility and of course decrease that of your competitors. Armed with a credible value proposition, you then focus on creating political alignment by linking that value to the agendas of the key players. To recap: early in an opportunity we started with a Compelling Event and had executive credibility. We were unsure of our inside support and weren’t particularly competitive. By focusing on shaping the opinions about issues to match your strengths – based on the personal and business value created by addressing those issues – you now have stronger inside support. The informal and formal decision criteria favor you, which by definition mean you have a superior solution fit and the appropriate resources to compete. You’ve improved your relationship with the customer and have credible Unique BusinessValue. In other words, you are positioned for an effective win. OUTMANEUVERINGTHE COMPETITION Once you understand the issues as well as all the competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, you leverage your inside support and executive credibility to first influence the informal decision criteria. You of course want to include those issues that represent your strengths and the competitors’ weaknesses, and exclude – or at least minimize – your weaknesses and your competitors’strengths. You then shape the informal decision criteria by connecting these issues to the personal and business agendas of the key players. Once you’ve shaped the mind of the customer – that is, their opinions and beliefs – you then ensure that these get written into the formal decision criteria based on the business value that they could create for the customer. This is how you ultimately achieve Competitive Advantage – the key players think that the issues that you best address are the most important – because you’ve shown them that these issues have the biggest impact on both personal and business value. By influencing what’s in the mind of the customer as well as what’s included in the RFP or tender, you create Competitive Advantage and by default Unique Business Value. Later in the opportunity, the most important formal decision criteria should be the issues that you handle best. The least important should be those that you don’t handle so well, and the ones that your competitors do handle well. Once these issues and their priorities are formalized, you need to make sure that your strengths remain in the criteria and that your competitors’strengths and your weaknesses are not added. This is what your competitors will be trying to do. If you have advantage, then they will execute what we call a ‘flanking’strategy to negate that advantage and create their own advantage by changing the formal criteria. To prevent that, you have to ensure that the key players are invested in having your strengths included in the criteria because of the value they create. This then positions you to create Unique BusinessValue in the mind of the key players. Remember, value is not absolute – there is no gold standard – rather it’s like a floating currency. Value is determined by the opinions and beliefs of the key players. They decide what is valuable. Because you have already influenced their thinking on the most important issues, you only now have to translate your PersonalValue BusinessValue Informal Decision Criteria Formal Decision Criteria Include: • Your Strengths • Competitors’ Weakness Exclude: • Your Weakness • Competitors’ Strengths
  7. 7. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 6 Sales managers should make sure they stay aligned to the customer buying process and don’t get ahead of their customer. This boils down to: • Focusing on the right issues and the right people -- The Compelling Event -- Executive credibility • Aligning with the customer buying process -- Focus on customer objectives -- No product presentations • Making sure that until there is a defined compelling event, there should be: -- No solution presentations, demos or pilots -- No education -- No forecasting Finally, managers should continually encourage the sales team to deepen their understanding of their customer’s political structure. As well as traditional hierarchies and the formal process, managers should direct their teams to discover who is affected by the problem or opportunity and who can affect – and be affected by – strategic and investment decisions. MANAGINGYOURTEAMTO SUCCEED The sales manager’s playbook should be to help the sales team qualify properly, stay aligned with the customer and continually expand the team’s view of the customer’s organization. Qualifying the opportunity is a crucial early step in an opportunity’s life, to make sure you are correctly engaged on only the right deals. Once you’ve helped your team qualify, you must help them analyze, formulate strategy and create a plan to win. What do you need to know to do this? The required knowledge can be summarized as follows: • Understanding the customer -- What are their business drivers and initiatives? -- What are their goals, objectives and strategies? • Compelling Event -- What are the consequences and payback for the Compelling Event? -- What is the date by which it’s too late? • People affected -- Who are the winners and losers if this is addressed? -- Who are the winners and losers if nothing happens? • Alternative uses of capital -- What is the competition for funds? -- Who can affect the funding decision process? SUMMARY It’s worth reemphasizing this important subject with some key bullets. Establishing Competitive Advantage and Unique BusinessValue in the mind of your customer on a particular opportunity involves seven essential facets: • Validate the Compelling Event with the key people • Anticipate the key issues • Identify your key capabilities • Analyze the competition • Set or change the decision criteria • Create a stronger Unique BusinessValue • Connect the Unique BusinessValue to the agendas of the key players This way you are best positioned to win the deal. Good luck. If you wish to find out more,please contact us at:
  8. 8. ABOUTTHETAS GROUP TheTAS Group helps progressive sales organizations increase their sales velocity resulting in higher win rates, bigger deals, shorter sales cycles, and more qualified deals in the pipeline. Our unique value is deep methodology embedded within intelligent Dealmaker software, 100% native in Salesforce. Smart coaching, delivered just-in-time, improves sales performance and accelerates sales results.We have changed the paradigm of improving sales effectiveness from traditional sales training to delivering sales methodology and insights when and where the sales person is working a sales opportunity. For more information visit Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved.This briefing is for customer use only and no usage rights are conveyed. Nothing herein may be reproduced in any form without written permission ofTheTAS Group.