Creative Selling and the Dog Who Didn’t Bark in the Night

Why aren’t you adding enough new accounts?

The incumbency problem – is your selling position defendable?

Are you prepared for the “law of the incumbency”? Is your selling position defendable?

Your business developers aren’t bringing in new business. They are reaching out, making cold phone calls, “Storming the Bastille” and even putting opportunities in the pipeline. They just aren’t closing. (Or closing enough.)

Perhaps you aren’t preparing your sales team for the law of incumbency. It’s conceptually manageable – but not always so easy to implement.

In the first instance your sales team needs to present a material difference – a difference strong enough to motivate changed behavior by the prospect.

Here’s a helpful aphorism: “Bold Vision, Bold Behavior.”

If your sales team members aren’t bringing a bold vision, they aren’t giving the prospect a reason to change. You may just need to “revolutionize” the prospect’s business.

However, bring a great new idea to a prospect and they will frequently “shop it” to the incumbent. Count on it. Prepare for it.

Your counter strategy – a defendable position. It is leadership’s job to prepare salespeople for the law of incumbency. (Don’t you benefit from it when you are the incumbent?)

Here are some common defendable strategies:

  1. Patented protection
  2. Trademarks
  3. Low-cost Producer
  4. Trade Secrets
  5. Unique Branding

For small businesses, a great defendable position is caused by your competitor’s self-inflicted wound, a self-imposed dilemma. A dilemma is not resolvable.

Here are two historical examples:

Who should have dominated the PC market in 1980 – Apple, the start-up, or IBM, the well-funded number one player in the market? IBM gave Apple a defendable position through this self-inflicted dilemma – conceiving of computers as centralized (large mainframes) versus decentralized (at your desk.)

Who should have dominated the early stages of the Internet – AOL, the start-up, or Microsoft, the well-funded number one player in the market? Microsoft gave AOL a defendable position through this self-inflicted dilemma – conceiving programs as reaching the computer through a floppy disk versus coming through the internet.

Here’s a dilemma appropriate to small business – flexibility and responsiveness. Some years ago a small company brought a unique idea to Kmart’s toy buyer. The toy buyer was transparent. He loved the idea but Milton Bradley was the dominant supplier. The toy buyer would show the product to them. If they didn’t want to emulate the product, the buyer would bring in the small innovator. The volume was indeed too low for Milton Bradley and the small company launched a new business.

Very often small businesses can launch and live in the space provided by “minimum requirements” of the larger competitors.

If your sales team isn’t bringing in enough new accounts, be sure you have clean hands – that you have armed them with the tools and strategies they need to repel the law of incumbency.