Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The "New" Art Of Selling????

I'm somewhat distressed the article that appeared in the January 28, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal. It was the column on Theory and Practice, entitled: Next In Line For Reinvention: The Art Of Selling. Both the author of the article, Phred Dvorak, and the author of the Book, Ram Charan seem to have discovered the secret to selling: finding a customer with a problem that you can solve and helping him solve it. What a tremendous insight!
I'm sorry, I don't like to trash others, particularly Dr. Charan. I have liked some of his past books. But have he or Mr. Dvorak bothered to study professional selling literature of the past 20 years? The notion of solution, customer focused, or consultative selling has been the subject of numerous books, articles, and consultant speeches. The words: value proposition, solution focus, customer oriented roll glibly off the tongues of any sales person.
Unfortunately, none of the ideas in the article are new or innovative. They have long been at the core of professional selling. Given Dr. Charan's past books, it would have been more interesting not to re-hash of these ideas, but to focus on examining why companies struggle in the execution of these ideas.
We have worked on these issues for the past fifteen years. The "theory and practice" of solution and consultative selling is not at question in any organization that we have worked with. The struggle of implementing these ideas, sustaining performance, growing and improving are the issues that sales executives and CEO's struggle with. It's time to have a meaningful discussion about execution.
Perhaps even more disappointing than the article is that the article was one of the most emailed articles in the WSJ. Do these people emailing the article think they have stumbled on a new insight? The science and practice of professional selling is in trouble if they do.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Truth In Advertising -- Do You Really Believe The Value You Produce?

I just got an email inviting me to yet another networking site. This was an interesting email, similar to others that I receive. Perhaps this was the straw that broke my back and forced me to comment.
This email came from "a friend," someone I don't know inviting me to join this website. When you look at the email more carefully, it is part of a blanket email sent by the company trying to recruit members to the site.
I find it offensive when companies claim familiarity and a relationship that doesn't exist. Sending a mail that looked like it may have been from my network, trying to get me to to something based on the presumed relationship is not just offensive. It is deceptive -- it starts the relationship on the basis of a lie. I can only presume the relationship will continue based on lies and lack of integrity.
If you have a product or service that you believe produces value then present it that way. Talk to your potential customers from a position of integrity and show them the value they will achieve. Trickery and deceit doesn't work--it's no way to build and sustain relationships of value. If you have to resort to these techniques, then perhaps you don't have a viable offering -- or you may not believe in your value yourself.
There seem to be a category of Internet marketers or consultants that think these approaches are the way to build a business -- at least based on the volume of similar emails that I receive. I prefer the simpler direct approach: "I have a product/service that I am proud of, I'd like to talk to you about how you might be able to get value out of it." I react much more positively to that message rather than these deceptive, poorly thought out message.
Oh, and by the way, to the guys at Notchup, I'm not interested in becoming an "invited member of your private beta."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Real Essence Of Strategy

Oren Harari has a great post in his blog on the Real Essence Of Strategy. Simple message, but we forget.
"Without a doubt, understanding and coping with competitors is a vital part of competitive strategy. But never forget that the soul of a winning strategy revolves around the pathbreaking value that your organization can create, regardless of what competitors are doing. That’s what excites customers, turns on employees, and brings investors rushing in."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Fashion In High Technology

I just returned from CES. Not many big stories, though it seems the computer and related technology industries have had an epiphany--fashion in product design is important!!! There was a lot of news about the colors, design, and other factors to increasingly appeal to the sense of fashion.

This is not new news! Apple has had tremendous fashion forward design for years (and I'm a PC guy). There have been moments of inspiration in past years.

One of the things I think the press has missed, however, is that the while the final form and function are critical deliverables in fashion related businesses, the business management process that enables companies to make money from "fashion" provides important lessons for technology related businesses. The ability of these businesses to get close to their customers, to understand and quickly respond to trend in the market--to drive them where possible, and to make money in with fickle customers are all important lessons that can be applied to fashionable and unfashionable technology products.

Rather than writing more on this, if you are interested in understanding this more, I will provide a link to a paper I wrote on this topic in 2004. The paper; Technology Companies Must Follow The Fashion Leaders, can be found by following the links.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Prisoners Of Our Own Experience

There was a great article in the New York Times on December 30, Innovative Minds Don't Think Alike. It suggests "as our knowledge and expertise increase, our creativity and ability to innovate tend to taper off."
While the article focuses on innovation and creativity, we encounter the same issue in our work with clients every day. We all become prisoners of our own experience. By that, the solutions that people look for tend to be the same old solutions that have been used over and over.
Organizations and people tend to define their strategies, processes, and approaches to business, based on their collection of past experiences. Some benchmark their competition, either copying practices or reacting to competition. Most executives are knowledgeable of their own organizations and what is happening within their industry.
However, many of these efforts do not create new and innovative practice for the organization. They represent small increments in improvement but not the dramatic change. The same thoughts and approaches, maybe polished up, are cycled and recycled within the organization and the industry.
To escape this prison and drive dramatic change in business, people and organizations need to look outside their companies and industries. In the New York Times article, it is suggested that outsiders and consultants can help organizations get a fresh look at things. This is a great approach. However, it is important that executives make a consistent practice of looking at other industries and companies. A B2B executive can learn a lot by looking at consumer products companies, and vice-versa. Old ideas and approaches from other industries can become very innovative and fresh when applied within your own company.
We encourage our clients to constantly learn by wandering around. We encourage exec's to look at very different industries, companies with different business models. Don't just look for ideas within your company, competition, or industry. Look outside to get a fresh view.