Avoid Black Ice When Selling

You can predict the outcome on the highway…..

Two cars are driving side by side – a 1950’s vintage restored car and a state of the art 2011 luxury car.

When it comes to safety – the vintage 1950’s car has little to offer.

The 2011 luxury car, by contrast, has: seat belts, all wheel drive, anti lock brakes and airbags.

The drivers both approach a patch of black ice.

The driver of the 1950’s car slows down to a crawl – he knows he’s in for trouble.

The driver of the 2011 luxury car speeds along at 50 mph. He goes into a skid, loses control, hits a tree and is killed.

What went wrong? The driver of the safer car suffered from risk adjustment. Knowing he had a safe car caused him to embrace unsafe behavior, take unwarranted risk. This is risk adjustment; here’s a formula:

Risk adjustment and black ice = disaster.

You can predict the outcome on the highway; can you do so when you sell?

In a selling situation, the luxury car – the situation where you feel safe – is where you are the incumbent at a key account. Perhaps you have “owned the account” for years. You are the “go to” person, you feel safe, you could be a bit complacent.

You might just become a “social seller” – focusing on getting the prospect to like you. And losing sight of the fact you are in a business relationship.

While you are sailing along on social autopilot, your competition might be creating some black ice – with a focus on material difference – a difference strong enough to change behavior.

While you focus on social selling, your competition is focused on creating a compelling reason for a business relationship.

Approximately 25 years ago, I was struggling to build a packaging business. My competition had a substantial head start – not only as the incumbent at a major prospect, but as an industry standard for decades.

So, they reliably became social sellers and took the customer (my prospect for granted.)  This opened the door for someone to create a black ice situation.

By contrast, I provided non stop service and ideas to the prospect. I became a business advisor on a myriad of issues.

When the customer closed a major deal, he looked to me to supply the packaging. I remember visiting the customer one day, when he received a phone call from my competitor, who advised him: “it’s time for your annual packaging order. You want to make sure you give us enough lead time to supply you the product when you need it.”

The customer ended the phone call and laughed. He would never give my competitor a stick of business.

My competitor had become complacent. How about you? How do you avoid becoming complacent and creating a ‘black ice’ situation?

Through non-stop innovation, through a focus on a compelling business case, you stay ahead of the competition and avoid skidding on the black ice and crashing into a tree.