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It’s all about the customer, not the competition

I learned a lesson in my very first proper job which has informed many decisions I’ve made for the next 30 years. The culture at the organisation was predominantly driven by the sales department, and although that’s not a bad thing in itself, it was in this case. That’s because this particular sales department was obsessed with its competitors. At least once a month, the rest of us (the creators) were summoned to a meeting where the sales team would listen as we were asked to go through everything the competition was doing, and criticise it. We hated it, but apparently this was exactly the information that the sales team needed to go out and start slagging off the competition.

Nobody in the sales team seemed to ask if the whole approach was flawed. It was, of course. I occasionally accompanied one of them on a sales call, where I would listen to a sales presentation that revolved around demolishing the prospect’s current choice of provider. Nobody wants to hear that they’ve been making a bad buying choice, however well the argument might be supported. It was a terrible strategy, and the business – which had once been the market leader – now no longer exists.

There are only three things which a sales presentation can focus on: the product, the customer or the alternatives. We can probably get by in business by concentrating on the product; it’s certainly the easiest approach. However, it’s much more effective to talk about the customer. What do they want? And how can we provide that?

It’s an obvious path to take. But are these the questions being answered by your marketing materials?