And while prestigious performance awards from suppliers and the positive message of appreciation for outstanding results that they convey are an important prize for any Industrial Distributor or Application Service Provider to receive, they are not easily earned or casually conferred. They are the official, ceremonial recognition of months of determined preparation, application engineering, demonstration, solution selling, negotiation, perseverance and success.
But if you were to ask me, or even better, a Customer...Why did we win the order?... What set us apart ?... What was different enough about us to convince the consulting engineer to specify us or the customer to buy from us? What answer would we get? I am pretty sure that in most cases, it would not be “PRICE”....at least I hope it would not be.
Under ideal circumstances, we need a strong economy and healthy target industries that are growing and spending money, but these alone do not guarantee
the sale. So WHY US? What is our differentiator? Do we even have one? Davis
I heard a speaker recently who insisted that we paint ourselves into ‘Commodity Corner’ if we think that any of the following elements are what make us special;
Great Customer Service: Who doesn’t lay claim to great customer service, whether it’s true or not
Quality: We have quality products that will do the job, but so do many of our competitors
Our Reputation / Our Brand: - Of course this is important. We could not even open our doors day after day if Davis Controls had a bad reputation, but how much business does this win?
Good Results: If we didn’t produce good results, we wouldn’t even be here
Our Employees / Our People / Our Team: Once again, who doesn’t say this?
Expertise: Everyone says “We have Trained and Knowledgeable sales reps”. I would be the first to insist that Product knowledge is critical...and we do our best to provide training where needed, but surely this must be presumed by every customer
Consistent and Reliable: This is where I can put in a plug for Macola and e-Synergy and our CRM and BAM software. These tools help us to be consistent and reliable quickly, but these are only tools
We are Responsive...at least I hope we are
We are Innovative…at least I am told we are
Customers Trust us / They have a Relationship with us
All of these traits and characteristics of a corporate formula for success are essential and I am convinced that we do them all pretty well, but they are also expected by our customers. Collectively, they represent the minimum requirements to even be in the game. Everybody else is laying claim to these ‘unique differentiators’ too. They have become a punch line and when we say them, we sound the same as everyone else.
When I heard this entire list of ‘essentials’ disqualified as being “too essential” to every business to be claimed by any one business as their differentiator, at first I thought, ‘WOW, that’s right. We need to identify and capitalize on something that is so different and uniquely ours that it sets us apart from everyone else’.
When I heard the same argument a second time, I thought, ‘it’s compelling, but something is just NOT right with the premise’. A winning combination of all of these things must surely create a competitive advantage.
When I heard these ten important corporate attributes dismissed as commodities for the third time, I realized what I didn’t agree with. Sure everyone claims to be uniquely expert in some or all of these areas, but the truth is; they can’t all be. Everyone has products, some are better than others. Everyone provides a service; some do it better than others. Everyone has a reputation – again, some are better than others, but the real flaw in the argument is the suggestion that good people are commodities. In the same way that weak, unskilled, untrained, unmotivated people are corporate liabilities, good people with superior skills and strong values can and do make all the difference.
The ‘Magic Bullet’ is the people. It has to be! They cannot be dismissed.
And just as important as having good people, is having time with good prospects. There is never enough time. We don’t have enough of it and neither does our customer. Success begins with successfully arranging for a customer to see us and ends by making the most with the time we are granted. Once we have been given a sales opportunity, we can’t afford to waste it with an ineffective or unproductive presentation.