Position Yourself For Success

The Positioning Play is the second play of the Case Open Routine.  The purpose of the positioning play is to stake a claim, establish the role of the sales person, and help the sales person to occupy a desired location.

There are two main principles associated with staking a claim.  First, if you don’t claim a position, you will never own it.  Second, if your claim goes uncontested, you win.  In the marketplace of products and ideas sales people drive the stakes that claim territories and mark positions.  If a sales person does not verbalize his product claim, potential customers or competitors do not acknowledge it, no customer list is developed, no territories are established, and no revenue stream is created.  If a sales person does not claim a position he will never own it.

This principle can be illustrated by using an example of market position.  Think about dandruff shampoo.  What is the first brand that comes to mind?  Usually the leading answer in this exercise is Head and Shoulders.

No one simply granted this market position to Head and Shoulders.  Rather, Procter and Gamble, the makers of Head and Shoulders, staked their claim as the dandruff shampoo by investing millions of advertising dollars to claim the efficacy of their product in the fight against embarrassing skin flakes.  As a result of the investment, Procter and Gamble no longer has to dominate the air waves with their message, they only invest enough to maintain the position they claimed.

The second principle is related to the first; if your claim goes uncontested, you win.  In the case of explorers, settlers and miners, once the stake had been driven and the claim had been made, contests for the claim had to be answered.  If an explorer claimed a territory in the name of his sovereign only to find that a previous claim existed, a contest for ownership ensued.  When settlers and miners faced the problem of a contested claim, each side argued their case in civil court, where an impartial judge resolved the dispute.  But if the claims went uncontested, the rights of ownership were acknowledged and granted.

Similar rules govern claims and rights in sales.  When Procter and Gamble planted their stake in the ground with a dandruff shampoo, competing products were not able to effectively combat the claim.  As a result, Procter and Gamble secured the leading market position in dandruff shampoos with Head and Shoulders.

How to Establish Your Role

Last week’s tip of the week talked about positioning yourself for success and staking your claim.  In addition to staking your claim, you use the positioning play to establish your role.  The purpose of the first is to find balance between generality and specificity; the purpose of the second is to claim the high ground.

So let’s talk about choosing the right balance between generality and specificity.  Your claim should be general enough to cover the position you want, but not be so broad as to be confusing.  Understanding the scope and scale of your position can eliminate confusion.  Scope is the range of understanding or the extent of action that is possible, and scale is a measure of size, proportion and dimension.

For an example of scope let’s use a life insurance sales person.  If you were a life insurance sales person, claiming a position as a business consultant would misdirect conversations, waste your time and erode the power of your primary purpose which is to sell life insurance policies.  On the other hand, positioning yourself as a financial consultant leads to conversations that help you discover opportunity and meet the needs of your suspect.  In this example, positioning as a life insurance agent may be too narrow, positioning as a business consultant too broad, but positioning as a financial consultant or a financial planner solves the question of scope with the right balance between generality and specificity.

Scale too must balance generality and specificity.  In the example of our life insurance sales person, deal size defines the target audience.  The target audience may be young married couples that the life insurance agent can grow with over time, or the target audience might be established wage earners.  Defining the scale helps to define the target audience and the conversations you will have with suspects in the target audience.

Another principle of establishing your role is to claim the high ground.  Claiming the high ground means that the language of positioning uses qualitative terms to show how your product or service is superior to that of your competitor.  Examples of language that establish the high ground include; my company specializes in or, our company is the global leader when it comes to or, we deliver the best quality in the industry.  Claiming the high ground positions you as a cut above the competition and establishes your Strategic Excellence Position.

The Natural Born Sales Person

I have often heard sales leaders and chief executives express the desperate hope that they could simply hire a natural born sales person or someone with the “sales gene.”  When these executives are pressed to identify the characteristics of the natural born sales person, they mention traits such as gift of gab, charisma, and physical attractiveness.

Debunking the natural born artist theory does not mean that the classical sales attributes lack value in salespeople.  It does point out that managers and leaders cannot rely on the “sales gene.”   Gifted and talented sales people still need training, coaching and accountability for performance measures.  Knowledge alone will not make you a natural born sales person any more than knowledge of the game of chess will make you a world master.  To become a natural born sales person, you will need ongoing study, practice, and feedback from a coach who is experienced and skilled.

An additional lesson is that sales people from all backgrounds and experiences with a wide variety of skills can be successful if they possess the will to learn and use a system based on true principals, proven models, and natural laws.