Is There Stratagem in Your Sales Strategy

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The Sontaran Stratagem

The Sontaran Stratagem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there a role for stratagem in your sales strategy? There is, but probably not the one you might automatically consider. The objective of stratagem in this concept isn’t laying a trap for your prospect. It’s laying a trap for your competition.

One of the Principles of Professional Selling is Never Mislead a Customer. Fooling a prospect may, or may not, be easy but it’s always bad news. Duped prospects turn into sour customers, and sour customers are very bad for business. So there is no room in a professional sales strategy for stratagem, which Thesaurus tells us is a trick, an artifice, a trap. As far as the prospect is concerned, that is.

But we owe no duty of fair play to the competition, do we? A stratagem built into a sales strategy and intended to trap competitors is perfectly acceptable. Especially when the prospect benefits as a result.

Inspiration for this thought came from a reader who commented on our article A Strategy for Sales People to Avoid Death Valley. The point made in that post was we should always keep open a reason to go back to the buyer, until the deal is signed. The comment asked the question – when competition is fierce and the buyer is in control how does the sales rep keep something back? Our answer was lay a trap. Set up a future conversation, not directly related to the requirement, but promising value add for the customer.

That’s the stratagem, and the point of this article. It works in any situation, in any sales campaign, but is especially effective when the buyer holds all the cards.

The stratagem has to create a competition you can win. It might be price, or service, or relationship, or technology development. The fundamental requirement is the new and additional promise must be something extra, something not in the defined requirement, but an extra benefit. And something for which you know you’ll come out on top.

And its vital the competition doesn’t see it coming.

At this point an example is always helpful.

As usual we’ll go back to old friend Paul the insurance broker. Persuading a business to change brokers is like asking them to change banks. They don’t do it very often. Worse the existing broker always has an inside track to the decision maker, and the opportunity to respond to any initiative taken by the competition.

Paul got tired of winning business on the quality of his consulting, the security of the policy, and the cost, and then losing it at the final hurdle because the incumbent was the CFO’s brother in law.

He needed a way of going back after the deal had been lost, and winning it again. And the trap he laid was a detailed analysis of risks inherent in the existing policy, with a report from the existing broker on ways the policy could be improved, to be compared with a similar one from him.

The trap of of course was the incumbent broker would always have difficulty in critiquing his own work. After all that’s what brokers are there for – arranging adequate cover at the lowest cost. But Paul’s secret was there are hidden risks in every policy. Client’s just don’t know about them.

Instead of opening up the project to win the new business with a detailed evaluation of the existing cover, he built that into a new post selection phase.

Once the broker selection had been made on the basis of the PowerPoint sales pitch, and all the relationship strings had been pulled, the detailed evaluation would start. He’d highlight all the holes in the cover and the prospect would compare his report with the incumbent’s version.

It’s hard to buy from somebody you know is incompetent, or worse, even when they’re your brother in law.

Some time ago the Supply Chain software business was all the rage. Every company was looking for ways to optimise it’s supply chain, using data intelligence to find ways of improving availability, whilst simultaneously reducing cost. License fees were high, and competition was fierce.

The vendor executing our stratagem was awesomely successful. In every deal the pitch was the future. Something the buyer couldn’t predict. Something the vendor had already worked out. The promise was a meeting with the vendor CEO, a vision of where things would go, and a promise of partnership to help the buyer get there.

The competition didn’t understand what was going on. Our example vendor added the future to the existing requirement, and a partnership with the company defining it.

If you’d like more insight and ideas about managing sales check out our eBook Succeeding in Sales Management

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steven Reeves
Consultant, author, software entrepreneur, business development professional, aspiring saxophonist, busy publishing insight and ideas. Boomer turned Zoomer - thirty year sales professional with experience selling everything from debt collection to outsourcing and milking machines to mainframes. Blogger at Successful Sales Management. Head cook and bottle washer at Front Office Box.

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