Many years ago while having a candid conversation with a fellow speaker prior to conducting a seminar for the management and sales team at Fruit of the Loom. I was sharing the many challenges we, as an industry, have contending with price, and that it seems to be a never ending spiral of angst among industry practitioners. My friend said to me, isn't it the buyers job to put everyone on a level playing field so the only issue is price? Think about that, even we as consumers are always looking for the best deal...right? So why would it be any different for our clients? They too are looking for the best deal. My friend further stated, "...it's your job to rise above that so they can't put you on the same field of play". Interesting!
After that discussion it got me thinking, 'What do I need to do, or what can I do to change the game, be different, making my competition irrelevant in the mind of my clients and prospects?' or more importantly, how could I become remarkable? It was time to rethink, reshape and retool my way of thinking of who I was, who I serviced and what I delivered. This epiphany led me to some important and amazing discoveries that truly reshaped my business and how I went to market.
The Current State of Affairs
For the most part and for the vast majority of distributors, we have access to and sell the same "stuff", competition is fierce, there is a low barrier to entry, less than average sales skills by many - where price is the common denominator. Technology and the internet are driving prices down. Advances in equipment that can produce products quickly and cheaper are surfacing weekly. I can remember a time when buying a custom cap it would take you one-hundred and eighty days and you would need to purchase a half of a container load to get a great price; now, with advances in technology and faster shipping methods, that same cap can be produced and landed in three weeks at 144 pieces, for relatively the same price as before.
Oh and if you think our pricing codes are a secret anymore; just GOOGLE© PPAI ASI Pricing Codes – how do they work? Someone has posted all for the world to see. So now, the millennia internet savvy buyer has access to how you make your money…seems a bit silly doesn’t it; working for cost plus 10% is just wrong. But tons of people do it!
Who Are the Players?
The door is wide open and you are competing with various forces and the landscape is changing. The internet and those that are focused on that platform can appear to drive margins down but that is not the case. Their platforms are designed to drive the overall transaction costs out of the equation where they can compete at more efficient prices while still maintaining a high profit margin.
Additionally I attend various presentations where the presenters give misinformation and in some cases information that can be detrimental to your success. This is why when folks ask me who I should listen to I suggest strongly that you ingest as much information as you can but be slow to digest…some of the information is just not healthy for the sustainability of your business.
Find a Mentor!
Renaming the Game, and Making It Yours
So how does one rename the game? You need to start looking at ways to reinvent who you are, what you do, and who you will be doing it for. I have several clients that have done complete revamps of their look and brand with name changes, personnel changes…dramatic. You may need to do this but perhaps not. Yours may be just getting your game plan in place in the way of a successful marketing plan; it could be a logo change.
There are other things to consider when improving your game and becoming invaluable. Look for other things you could provide:
- Consultative Selling
- Asking GREAT questions and helping the client achieve their goals beyond getting a cheap give-a-way.
- Off new services
- Develop mind-blowing creative campaigns.
- Become an expert in various areas.
- Awards and Recognition
- Safety program
- Specific vertical markets
- Banking and Finance
Becoming an expert will be one way to rise above the clutter. There is NO REASON why you must be relegated to what a supplier says you should sell their merchandise and products for, nor should you be at the mercy of having your clients dictate what you make. Stand up, be different, be unique…become REMARKABLE.
I hear from so many people that the driving differentiator for their company is ‘amazing customer service’; but what happens when that goes away? Each of you has experienced this, just the other day, no less than five of my clients mentioned that this happened to them. They had a request, went over and above to get the quote, the sample, make suggestions, and sharpened their pencil and perhaps hand delivered the sample and then nothing, no call, no responses to calls and emails only to hear…so we found it cheaper. But I gave great customer service. Today, that cannot be the only leg you stand on.
Consider This for Your Playbook
- Find a competent mentor.
- Start seeing yourself as PART of the value proposition and not just an expense on the client’s balance sheet
- Look for ways to create a difference, become “remarkable.”
- DO IT!
My friends, you are allowed to make money. As my late friend Marvin Spike once said, “Profit is NOT a four letter word”. Think about that. When you know your value and can demonstrate it, you are indeed remarkable. Then you have managed to change the game…for now.
Always be on the lookout, never become complacent – the game has changed!
“Procrastination Breeds Mediocrity, Become Remarkable”, Cliff Quicksell, MAS+
Until Next Week, continued Good Selling - CQ