3 Rocks for Your Slingshot When You're Up Against Goliath


When you are selling against the Goliaths in your market, you need specific rocks for your slingshot. You need to break down the inherent misguided beliefs that "bigger is better" and that old idea that "no one got fired for buying from IBM" (it's still out there).

Here are three ways to put these market myths in perspective and put you in a better position to crush the bigger player in the fight.

1. The 11th biggest customer dilemma

Ask your prospect, "Who is the 11th biggest customer for your company?" As they fumble through the list in their mind, drop in this second question, "What's it like to be somebody's 11th biggest customer?"

You've set up the conversation about size, trust, and promises. Be careful, it would be easy to swing on the point with an eight-pound sledgehammer when just a finishing hammer is necessary. Here's how the rest of the conversation should go:

You: "Being out of the top 10 shows up in a lot of ways in a business relationship -- not always up front, but over time, the bigger clients always get the first attention in any of our businesses. I would encourage you to ask anyone you are considering for this project/program/purchase/partnership where you will fall in their line of clients. Just for reference, you will be my _____ biggest customer." (Fill in the blank with the correct number in the top 10 for your company or your personal book of business.)

It's simple -- we all know that being 11th sucks. Sometimes a prospect needs to be reminded of this fact. Then the prospect needs to be asked to make this reference real to his or her own business. In our own hearts, we all know -- prospects included -- that we don't treat all customers equally. They enjoy that leverage when they have it and resent it when they don't. This is our chance to drive that point home. Works like magic.

2. The behind-the-curtain tactic
When I buy a car, I have a sneaking suspicion that I don't know the "real story" and may be taken advantage of. I think that this happens for prospect companies in their buying process. They are afraid of spending too much, making a risky selection or having to live with the fallout of a mistake. For these reasons, they hide behind RFP processes, procurement/purchasing departments and blind-bids. These approaches create a false sense of security that is dangerous. A good strategy is to show them the truth behind the curtain -- the real story.

I like using the technique of telling the buyer up front the myths of the industry. Myths in this context are ideas that have been promoted by bigger competitors that obscure the truth. An example of several types of myths you can describe include:

  • Bigger is better and safer
  • Price is the same as your true cost
  • RFP processes help companies make better decisions
None of these three ideas is true -- as a matter of fact, as you know in your own business, these are all inherently false. Using this technique, you can call out these or other myths that have been promoted in your industry by your competitors and you can set out the facts for the prospect's benefit. By doing so, you establish yourself as a straight-shooter and you frame your value proposition differently.

3. Make it a simple choice
I like courtroom dramas. Everything is boiled down into very tight, coherent arguments and usually one attorney or the other sums up with a choice for the jury, innocent or guilty, based upon just one idea. In the now infamous OJ Simpson trial, the statement that Johnny Cochrane said was, "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit."

When you are competing against a bigger company, you are better served if you can reduce the decision to a simple either/or question as you summarize the choice. Big companies, by creating lots of variables, create fear. Fear creates a climate where a decision is made based upon safety, not value, and that usually defaults to the bigger of the two companies. However, if you can derail that complexity and confusion and boil it down for your prospects, then you can make the choice easier for them. Some examples of your either/or strategy can include:

  • This decision comes down to service vs. scale
  • This choice comes down to fast and good, or slow and perfect
  • Your selection comes down to answering the market pressures of today or the market leadership opportunities of tomorrow
This approach is the bow with which you tie up the rest of your good strong arguments. This becomes the punch line that simplifies the choice for your supporters at the company who must answer to the fear-mongers.

These three approaches give you an edge over the bigger competitors and allow your values to shine. Use them to elevate your position and knock out the giant's knees.

Image courtesy of Flickr by cheesy42, CC 2.0

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