Running with the Big Boys

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I lost a huge potential new contract this week. I put everything I had into the vendor meetings and proposal. They picked another firm to do the work because they were bigger than my company and they thought that they could get the work done faster. How did this outcome make me feel? Pretty happy, actually! The race came down to my firm (three employees and less than $200,000 in sales) and a large multimedia firm with over 250 employees and more than $15,000,000 in sales. The fact that the client seriously considered us next to a giant like that means that I've done my job.

Unless you are unique in your industry, you have competitors - many of them much larger than you. How do you take your small firm (or just you) and project a winning combination of products / service / expertise / relationship? After developing your product line with superior quality products or services the next step is to know your industry completely. Read everything you can about your line of product or service. Subscribe to the magazines and trade publications. Attend the trade shows and talk with as many people as possible. Through this education process you will have the knowledge that will offer value to your customer when the sale is being made.

Consider my last trip to the beauty salon:

Me: Can you recommend a leave-in conditioner that would work well with my new perm?

Salesperson (while cutting my hair): They weigh my hair down, so I don't use them.

I really wanted to buy a leave-in conditioner, and I was looking for information about the different types they had. It didn't matter to me that my salesperson didn't like and/or use the products. I wanted her to know which product might work well for me.

I did end up buying a leave-in conditioner, but I picked it because it was on sale and had a good smell. I didn't have any other data to pull from to make my buying decision. The salon could have increased their profit on that sale by providing me with good technical information about which product would work best for my new hairstyle.

After you know your industry better than anyone else, you have to be able to project a winning style. Take a look at your appearance during meetings with the potential client and take a look at what promotional materials you are leaving after the sales call. "Professional" should be the overriding feel of your presentation. High quality printed materials and a superior web site will often convince the client that you will provide the same level of quality for their project.

The hair salon could have had a brochure to offer that explained the benefits of a certain hair product line or a web site that offered solutions to common hair problems through the use of their products. The consumer needs to know why they should spend more of their money with you than with a competitor. Can you provide the service better or faster? Is your quality higher? What will a customer have in hand after doing business with you that they won't get elsewhere? If you can successfully answer all of these questions then you might be ready to take on the big boys!



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