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How do you manage Sales when you are Competing with Yourself?

Posted by Philip Kreindler on 18-Aug-2014 14:33:00

chess_divideIn a fast changing world businesses can end up in strange situations – like competing with themselves – although for very good reasons. We have recently started work with a new client who is doing just that to protect the long term interests of the company. 

The main part of their business is hardware for high-volume printing. They have a growing share of the market, but this market is shrinking rapidly and will continue to get smaller because of substitution through email and other Internet communications.


Adapting to rapid change

The people who sold horses and buggies had to change or die when the Model T Ford arrived and businesses today have to face far bigger and faster changes. Our client has recognised the need to adapt rapidly but this is creating real challenges for the sales organisation.

The main response from our client has been to buy a major supplier of digital communication solutions and offer customers the full range of services – hardware and software. This is excellent thinking but it throws up a whole series of challenges. In effect our client has bought a company that was until recently a competitor and whose products compete with the existing business.


Issues to address

We have only just started working with this client so there are more questions than answers at the moment. How should our client structure, train and motivate the two Sales Teams when the new solutions they offer seem to go head to head with the established ones? Will it make sense to Customers? Here are a couple of the key questions we need to address first off.


1.     One Sales team or two?

If our client is offering a fully integrated solution, shouldn’t the Sales teams be integrated? It certainly seems a tempting idea at first, but there are significant considerations to take on board. The hardware sales tend to be relatively quick, straightforward and high margin. Selling a software solution tends to take much longer and be more complex, and requires customer-industry expertise. We really need to understand what our clients customers want, how the teams are currently structured and rewarded and if it is going to be wise to merge the teams in the short term or even the long term.


2.     One customer or two?

Well at least our client will be selling to just one customer, won’t they? Not really. The hardware side of the business sells primarily to Print Center Managers and Procurement. The software decision makers include Marketing, IT, Operations and often Sales. The customer side teams may have different interpretations of the company’s strategy for customer comminication and may even feel they are in competition with one another. This needs careful analysis to ensure the takeover is a success.


What is the solution?

At this stage I don’t know. I have some ideas and we have delivered some training already in areas like Complex Software Sales. But a full solution, like any good Sales Proposal will require a careful Needs Analysis and engagement with all relevant decision makers.

And because the situation is dynamic the solution will have to be flexible and adapt to the changing situation. I think it will be a very exciting time for the client team and for us. When we have developed the Roadmap, started to implement a solution and helped our client deliver stronger Sales I’ll write another blog to update you.

Watch this space.


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