Like it or not, sales is often a zero-sum game: Your win is someone else's loss. Most salespeople work in mature, overcrowded industries, your offerings perceived (often unfairly) as commodities. Growth requires taking market share from your competitors, while they try to do the same to you. How else can you grow 12 percent a year in an industry that's only growing by 3 percent?
It's not easy for any salesperson to execute a competitive displacementor, in other words, "eat their lunch." You might think this requires a bloodthirsty "whatever it takes" attitude, but that's the opposite of what works. If you act like a Mafia don, you only make yourself difficult to trust and impossible to see as a long-term partner. Instead, this book shows you how to find and maintain a long-term competitive advantage by taking steps like:
Your competitors may be tough, but with the strategies you'll discover in this book, you'll soon be eating their lunch.
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You Are the Value Proposition
If you are going to displace your competitor (i.e., eat their lunch), you'll have to make it worth your dream client's time, energy, and money to change. You'll also have to compel them to change.
Right now you may be infected with the belief that you simply need to wait for some negative event to cause your dream client to change. You may believe that your competitor must fail and fail badly, disrupting your prospective client's business before they will seriously consider changing partners. You may hope that some event occurs that causes them to search their email to find your contact information or sift through the stack of business cards in their junk drawer.
But waiting isn't a strategy. Waiting is much too passive, much too reactive. A strategy to win new clients requires that you are more proactive and disciplined in your approach. It also means you understand that right now, while you are reading this very page, some of your dream clients are unhappy with their current provider. Maybe not so unhappy that they are going to fire their current provider today or tomorrow, but they are struggling to produce the results they need and they want things to be better. Let's look at why your dream client may be susceptible to change now.
Some Signs That a Displacement Is Likely
Before we get into the overall strategy for a competitive displacement, let's explore some of the signs that a displacement is possible-or even likely. If you have ever had the experience of being displaced, some of these will ring a rather unpleasant bell.
If there is a root cause of all displacements, it's complacency. Having won the client's business and served them for years, your competitor falls into a routine with your dream client. The problem that allowed your competitor to win their dream client was long ago solved, and for years your competitor has simply continued to execute the solution that solved that problem.
But over time, the outside world has continued to change. Your competitor's client (the one you are going to steal away from them) has started to experience new challenges, challenges that their current partner has left unaddressed. The client now has increased competition, some of which is coming from lower-priced competitors. They have increased customer demands they have been unable to fulfill. They have systemic challenges that have gone unresolved long enough that they have accepted that their current workarounds are all that can be done, even if they are increasingly ineffectual.
When your competitor gives up working to create new value because they've grown complacent, they are exposed to a competitive displacement (and the same applies to you and your clients).
A Sense of Entitlement
When your competitor has served their client for years-maybe even decades-they believe that their relationship creates an impenetrable boundary that repels all potential rivals, like a force field. They believe their history of working together entitles them to their client's business in perpetuity. This is a sort of soft arrogance that leads to complacency.
In another form of entitlement that gives rise to a displacement, your competitor believes that their contractual relationship is enough to protect the business, that their client won't change before the contract expires. To believe that a contract will prevent you from losing your client's business is to be woefully unaware of how little protection a contract offers or just how little you are entitled to their business. In fact, comfort with the status quo and the cost of changing partners are often stronger barriers to change than contractual commitments. The client's patience often expires before their contract does.
When your competitor feels a sense of entitlement, their overconfidence can create an opportunity for displacement.
Apathy and Lack of Communication
Complacency and a sense of entitlement can also manifest as apathy, resulting in a failure to communicate frequently and meaningfully with the client. After years working with a company, your competitor can fall into a comfortable routine, where their client doesn't ask any more of them and they don't bring new ideas. What little communication there is turns into a "check-in" call where no real value is created for the client.
Over time, the relationship between your competitor and your dream client grows stale and becomes vulnerable to internal and external threats. Your competitor's apathy gets reflected in their client's apathy toward them and their relationship. Meanwhile you, the salesperson who has been consistently and persistently asking for a meeting while showing a serious interest in the business, become a lot more interesting to the client, opening up the possibility of a displacement.
After serving them for a long time, some salespeople start to resent their clients. You may or may not have witnessed this in yourself or in your organization. The client starts to become sort of an annoyance, taking more time than is necessary and becoming needier. I have seen companies that claim to be client-focused do nothing but complain about their clients. While that resentment may only be expressed internally, it is a mistake to think your client doesn't feel the change in your relationship. When your competitor no longer treats your dream client as the most important and interesting thing in the world, they've created an opportunity for displacement.
When a new stakeholder holding a position of power enters the scene, things can get interesting. Why? What's the first thing a new leader or manager wants to do upon starting their new role? They want to change something. They want to start making a name for themselves, establish their authority, and get an easy win on the scoreboard.
One of the easiest ways they can make an impact is by removing a partner who is complacent, who feels entitled to the business because they have a contract, who has not made the changes they've been asked to make, who no longer communicates, and who is doing nothing about the systemic challenges to the business. There might be a few people who are upset when their current provider gets a pink slip and is replaced, but even those with deep relationships tend to get over it pretty quickly.
I've personally lost a client because a new stakeholder didn't like our model and believed the best thing she could do would be to replace my company with the lowest-price competitor in that particular market. The quality declined and the challenges we had successfully addressed all resurfaced. Within a year she was gone, and we were back. But it wasn't just the poor results that caused the company to bring us back in; it was a new stakeholder taking the role when the person who removed us was herself removed.
Long Unaddressed Needs and Changes
When your dream client has asked their partner to make changes to address their needs and is ignored for months and years, they are ripe for a displacement. There are two factors at work here. First, no one likes to be ignored. The more time passes and the more requests they need to make for some necessary change, the closer they are to switching to a partner who can address their needs in a timely manner. Second, not making the changes is an indication that one does not care. If your competitor cared, they'd be trying to do something different and having conversations about what things they are changing and how they are doing it to meet their client's need.
You know this idea as "dissatisfaction" or "pain," the common vernacular in sales that suggests the client has a compelling need to change. It's what you have been taught to explore in a discovery meeting so that you can come up with a solution that addresses the areas in which your dream client is unhappy and needs things to be different. This used to be the gold standard in competitive displacement strategy, but at the time this book is being published, this is no longer true. Instead, your dream clients in many cases have learned to live with the status quo, lowered their standards, and find it difficult to consider changing when doing so brings only marginal improvement. They may want to avoid the risk of changing only to end up with a different or unknown set of challenges.
Unaddressed Systemic Challenges
All the factors listed above weaken your competitor's hold on their client and can improve your chances of motivating your dream client to change their provider. But if you think about these factors you will quickly realize that you yourself are guilty of many of these crimes against your clients, and yet you still have their business (not to worry, we'll do something about all of these risk factors in chapter 12). The truth is that many of these factors aren't always enough to compel change, which is why companies don't make these changes even when they should.
The first third of this book is about developing and gaining relationships that allow you to capture mindshare and create a compelling case for change by leveraging the threats to the business that come from huge, tectonic shifts that, left unaddressed, will eventually cause the business harm. If the needs left unaddressed by your competitor answer the "What keeps you up at night" question that you would ask the client, then the systemic threats provide you with a case for "This is what should be keeping you up at night."
The factors discussed above begin a displacement based on identified client wants and needs and put you in a position where you are reacting to the causes of change that already exist. The approach we are taking here, one of addressing the strategic or systemic threats that are largely being ignored, creates a compelling case for change that is proactive. The approach in this book is not one where you wait for a client to decide they need to change; instead, you are going to compel that change. This is a good place to introduce what your dream client needs from you, something we'll explain by contrasting it with what they are getting now. To do this work, we'll have to look at how most sales organizations and salespeople operate now to discover the difference in approach that compels change and creates the opportunity to displace your competitors.
Entering from the Right:
The Four Levels of Value Creation
There are four levels of value you can create for your clients. While most salespeople create lower levels of value, you will create a higher, more strategic level of value, differentiating you from your competitors and helping your competitors' clients identify new opportunities.
Level 1: Product
The lowest and most fundamental level of value is the value in your product or your service. Because of this, many sales organizations and their salespeople enter into a sales conversation by talking about their products or services. They share the features and benefits their prospective client will receive by using their product. When they're really sophisticated, they share "advantages," all the things the client will be able to do because of the product's features.
Make no mistake, it is important that you have a good product. A great product is even better. However, it is even more important to know that a great salesperson with an acceptable product beats a poor salesperson with an excellent product. The challenge here is that there are so many good and acceptable products in competitive markets like yours that your product by itself isn't differentiated or compelling enough to motivate a potential client to change partners. This is both why and how you've been commoditized.
If all you do is provide a good product, you will find it extremely difficult to generate any real loyalty from your clients. If your competitor creates only Level 1 value, the value created by their product alone, the act of displacement starts by entering into a conversation with your prospective client from a higher level of value. You misunderstand consultative selling if you believe that your product is the highest level of value your client needs from you. Staying at Level 1 is a recipe for losing clients.
Level 2: Service
When we provide clients with our product, we also create the need for service and support. Products sometimes fail. Other times, results are difficult to deliver. Clients need help making the product work and obtaining the outcomes we sell.
Helping your client implement, use, and troubleshoot your product is a higher level of value. Always being available to help your clients fully capture the value of what you sell differentiates you from Level 1 providers. The experience of what it is like to work with you is Level 2 value. Are you easy to do business with? Can you align what you do with the needs of the people who are going to interact with you and your business on a regular basis? Can you quickly and effectively solve the problems that come with buying and using your product?
Level 2 is greater than Level 1. If your competitor is creating only Level 1 value, they are creating an opening for you to displace them. If their service and delivery failures are not being promptly and properly addressed, this higher level of value can create a compelling reason to change. The costs of dealing with product failures compel people and companies to change every day. This is why Level 2 is necessary; it allows you to solve product and service problems.
For our purposes here, this is still what we call "entering from the left," with Level 1 being on the far left, and Level 2 next to it on the right. Even though it may be enough to eject your low-value competitor from their seat at the table, we will begin our strategy for displacement at an even higher level.
Level 3: Business Results
If you are in B2B sales, you are likely trying to operate and sell at Level 3. This is the level where you produce tangible business results. It's not the product alone that you sell. Nor is it the service and support. Instead, you sell the business improvement that your product or service produces for your client. You sell outcomes!
Maybe what you sell helps your client generate additional revenue. Or it might help make them more profitable by reducing their costs (which, to be clear, is not the same as lowering your price or helping them underinvest). You probably even have charts and spreadsheets that show how you can produce measurable results. This is a much higher level of value than either Level 1 or Level 2. Starting here is often enough to create a compelling case for change when you are competing against those sellers who sell at Levels 1 and 2. While that's all well and good, in B2B sales your serious competition will be with salespeople and sales organizations who also sell at Level 3. Almost every one of your serious competitors is trying to create Level 3 value.
Excerpted from "Eat Their Lunch"
Copyright © 2018 Anthony Iannarino.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A Word to the Reader xiii
Part 1 Developing Relationships And Gaining Access 13
Chapter 1 You Are The Value Proposition 15
Chapter 2 Capturing Mindshare 34
Chapter 3 Creating An Opening Through Nurture Campaigns And Pursuit Plans 53
Chapter 4 Prospecting With The Intention Of Displacement 71
Part 2 Building Consensus: Wire The Building 85
Chapter 5 Helping Your Dream Clients Discover Something About Themselves 87
Chapter 6 Creating Opportunities 108
Chapter 7 Building Consensus Horizontally And Vertically 119
Chapter 8 Finding A Path To A Deal 135
Part 3 Winning With the Intangibles 151
Chapter 9 Creating A Preference 153
Chapter 10 Becoming A Trusted Adviser And Consultative Salesperson 170
Chapter 11 Developing An Executive Presence 184
Chapter 12 How To Build A Wall Of Fire Around Your Clients 194
Conclusion Parting Thoughts 206