I needed a strategy to win against IBM. I wanted to get into one of their major accounts. So, after much deliberation, I chose something different – The Trojan Horse. I would get my foot in the door and start proving my systems … before Big Blue noticed me.
It worked brilliantly and in the first year I massively overachieved my sales target. There was now a small herd of Trojan Horses stampeding though the account. I was delighted, so was my boss. Then Big Blue woke up … that’s when the trouble started.
At first I thought customers would continue buying my systems simply because they were better than IBM’s. I now realise how naive it was to believe that. It turned out that selling well-crafted, valuable business systems was no longer enough. Very quickly every opportunity I opened became competitive … and political. That wasn’t where I wanted to play, but I had no choice. I had to understand what was happening, and I had to learn what to do about it … fast.
I was just about to get a powerful insight into the reality of corporate life.
The first FUD factor (fear, uncertainty and doubt) I noticed was the directive from the account’s corporate IT policy makers. This made it clear that any systems purchased must be compatible with the mainframe computer – and that the safest way to ensure this was to buy IBM. There was also an implied threat to any manager who might want to buy outside this walled-garden – it would be a brave, perhaps career-limiting move.
In any big organisation you’ll find corporate support functions underwriting safe options. Not just IT, but HR, Finance etc. Support functions by their every nature are risk averse and create corporate walled-gardens. On the surface they do what’s best for the organisation … but underneath they also, understandably, protect their own turf and own interests too.
Outselling the competition wouldn’t be enough.
I had to learn how to navigate the corporate political minefield. Let’s be clear, FUD is used by corporate support functions to keep services in-house, or with preferred suppliers. And, this corporate compliance is a form of screening and political shenanigans, aimed at keeping undesirables off the starting grid. I see this all the time with people selling services. Coaches are asked to jump through certification hoops, consultants need to be licensed as six-sigma wizards, technologists define themselves by product accreditation.
I would have to prove my systems were compliant just to get on a ‘tolerated list’ of suppliers. But I still knew that wouldn’t be enough to win business. So, what did I do about it?
In part 2 you’ll read about the 7 actions you can take to beat the FUD factor, reposition your offer and win the complex sale. And in part 3 you’ll find the tools that support these actions for winning work, and helping your clients succeed.
The bottom line
- Get Real: Every sale has a political element to it. Someone, somewhere, will spread FUD about your proposals. Surface these fears, uncertainties and doubts so that you can address them.
- Get Prepared: Play to your strengths. Map out the political landscape. Find out how your competitors position their strengths and your weaknesses.
- Get Savvy: Compliance doesn’t mean you will sell anything. Selling is not about the compliance, it’s about the relationships and politics.