What really drives wins and where does it come from? Over the years, we’ve seen transitions from directly pushing product superiority to drive customer business value to now intensively pushing product superiority to drive internal supplier needs. This, in turn, has contributed to the need for career safety within customer organizations, as a culture of risk avoidance has developed resulting in the competition all too often being, “no decision.” And, it’s not just a risk mitigation emphasis on the part of customers, but also with suppliers, which has contributed to a strong corporate inward focus and less sensitivity to customer experience.
In our view, the days of trying to directly influence customers is diminishing. The power to sell more in the future will be less resident in proprietary technology and closed platforms that lock customers into a suite of products, or in forceful sales tactics, like pushing a customer to make a buying decision to get the order in by the end of the quarter. All of these examples reflect a direct approach to market, but does corporate culture today support that kind of thinking?
We think not, as efforts to tie the hands of customers and channel their thinking to the supplier narrative is fading. Instead, it will be the soft and patient application of power that prevails. Soft power is creating secondary and tertiary results, where the operative factor is time. It consists of doing several things that, over time, interrelate and are interdependent in certain ways that produce sales results. We’re talking about slow potentiation. The confluence of events or initiatives that produce secondary impact, followed by an even more significant tertiary result.
For example, researching the customer’s business to understand their vision, direction, and priorities. Looking at how they are advancing their priorities. Determining which of those priorities your company can potentially impact, in terms of accelerating or improving them. You’re not pushing anything. This is followed by mapping out the Power Base and introducing the potential to advance a critical customer priority, which also expands your support base within the account. Working with the Situational Fox for the right corporate priority, helps you with this and assists in securing budget for the buy. It’s not just a different way of thinking that’s gotten lost in today’s gig culture, it’s building long term partnerships with customers that are trust-based, to drive down customer risk and drive up repeat business.
Soft power is fueled by the caring attitude of servant-hood where customers don’t feel that they’re being sold because there’s little to no pressure. It’s the nexus of value and trust that produces strong results by creating pull for solutions vs. driving a push sales campaign.