I don’t know about you, but I own a lot of shoes. I don’t think it’s just a girl-thing either. I’ve purchased these shoes over the years because they matched up with the clothing I was wearing at the time. I bought many pairs for more formal occasions. There are the shoes I wear for the gym, for cross country hiking, for slogging about the house. The high heels and now, sigh, the ballet flats.
There are only three pairs that I wear on a regular basis. They fit well, support my feet, align my body when walking, and contribute to my overall feeling of well-being. They fit me, my needs, and my feet, like a glove. I trust in them and can depend on them.
How about you? How many pairs of shoes do you have in your closet – compared with the number of shoes you wear, day in and day out, on a regular basis because you can depend on them to take you through your business day?
The same holds true for business solutions, technical solutions, sales training solutions and just about anything else you are offering to the market place.
Your customer has an entire closet full of solutions they have purchased, tried, and abandoned. These business and technical solutions seemed like good choices at the time, but were transient efforts, incapable of going the distance.
Yes, I know there are vendors out there touting their solution as tried and true and tested by thousands of folks. Yet how many of those thousands of businesses jettisoned these sales training solutions into the back of their customer closet? That “one size fits all” strategy didn’t fit the bill over the long haul.
How many of you have resurrected technical RFPs from prior projects, and slapped a different name on the cover, did some minor editing, and represented it in response to an entirely different customer – and then wondered why you didn’t win the bid? Guess how many other manufacturers sent in RFPs using the same strategy? Your customer collected another bunch of status quo, superficial shoes that didn’t fit their situation very well and were judged as an insufficient strategic match.
In order to provide the types of solutions which are enduring and valuable, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and walk around for a while. You know, the status quo shoes they wear day in and day out; shoes that are comfortable to them and represent their habits, processes, attitudes and values.
Figure out whether your customers’ shoes fit you – do they chafe and rub and cause blisters and discomfort? Perhaps your customers’ shoes are not all that comfortable for them, as well. Perhaps it’s time for them to find a new pair of shoes – one that they can slip their feet into every day, walk around, and accomplish their tactical objectives and strategic goals.
If your solutions are going to become your customers’ new pair of go-to shoes, there’s no “one size fits all” to this concept. Take the time to understand their needs. More importantly, determine the context in which your “shoe solutions” are going to be put into play: is there lots of rough terrain to constantly negotiate? Are you walking on silk carpet or egg shells most of the time?
It’s not about selling them another pair of shoes that they will tire of wearing in short order. It’s about improving their quality of business life over the long haul. That means understanding what it feels like to wear their shoes, as well as your own. Your thoughts?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo back into small and mid-sized businesses, particularly in the manufacturing sector. She builds vibrant revenue-producing business strategies for technical start-ups seeking investors and early customers.