Collaborate or Compete

I sometimes worry about the amount of metaphors bounded around about doing business and selling. The most usual one is to compare business to sport, we have all done it. Compete to win. Never give up. Go for the knock out. Play to your strengths and the opponents weaknesses. Keep it tight at the back.  Come on ref! Go get ’em and so on.

Of course business can easily be seen as being competitive it can be also be seen as being collaborative, like strawberries and cream.  Idealistic? I don’t see why.  Showing some integrity? Definitely.

I believe when we are doing new business we should be looking for companies that would like to collaborative and work together in a win-win situation.  When we are buying likewise. Don’t look for suppliers that you can hit with a big stick on a regular basis.  If you do, guess what they think or do when you turn your back.  If you always want a discount for example, how long before they  push their prices up 20% to thwart your dysfunctional behaviour.

If we approached new business from the angle that a prospect may or may not need our help and that depends on a variety of factors. And those factors are not all about us and sometimes not even known. Then we would move from being self-centred sales people and instead move toward being potential trusted partners. And that we realise our prospects are real people and not marks with job titles that we need to compete with.

So many sales people are so keen to guess what a prospects issues are and begin solving them even before they have collaborated properly with the prospect. They don’t even know if the prospect is even able to buy what they have.  It’s not only about whether your solution is likely to work (let’s hope it does) it is also important that when you come in with your size 9’s you don’t put too many peoples necks out.

When businesses buy something it causes change (here’s hoping) and some people are not always so keen on that, so it needs to be managed. And it needs to be managed before the sale is closed and not afterwards.  Else you will just be kicked out when it is felt that the solution causes more grief that the initial problem.  i.e “That’s not the way we work around here.”; “if we do that we will have to change other things too.”; “If x happens, y happens, and if y happens, z happens and z is my business and I have being doing z like his all my life….oops….ouch…..get that innovative solution away from here. Ever had that – or is it just me?

If we help our prospects manage what will happen if they work with us, and who needs to be on board before they can work with us in a non-disruptive way we stand much more chance of helping them with our super, amazing, innovative solutions that we all have.

Our prospects need to manage these out of sight issues anyway so we might as well help them. These are the issues that can take months for the prospect to solve, via meeting after meeting.  While you are wondering when they are going to accept your brilliant proposal (that you spent two weeks on) or not and every time you call them to get an ETA they are ‘busy’. Imagine if we could speed that up! Or they’d phone for my great advice on how to handle internal change.

Here’s a starter for you – How can you be sure that bringing in any solution will go down well with other departments? or How can we make sure that other people who maybe affected by adding in ‘new sales skills’ will get all their questions answered about how they see the current situation?  Hey, you can even ask these question of procurement departments.

Um… strawberries and cream.  Anyone for tennis…doh !

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