Take a SWOT at all your key customers
The logic underlying SWOT analysis is so obvious that it's often easy to lose sight of its power and value. The newest, least experienced sales rep in an organization can easily grasp what a sales manager means by a customer's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats; and it's not very difficult to actually identify them. It's also not very difficult to engage customer personnel in discussing them. In fact, they tend to love it.
Since a firm grasp on a customer's SWOTs establishes you as someone truly interested in improving business processes and performance, it can dramatically improve your odds of closing deals. So here's a quick review:
- Strengths are business processes at which your customer truly excels. Remember that these aren't necessarily the strengths listed on their website. Don't take their word for it. They might be kidding themselves. Challenge them; make them explain it to you. Always steer the conversation to position your products and services as things that can help them exploit their true strengths.
- Weaknesses are business processes, at which your customer is average or below average. They're typically not too hard to identify, but discussing them could be a delicate matter. Be diplomatic! One good way to point out weaknesses is to talk to your customer's customers and get their perspective. Ask your customer about how those folks might have come to hold that opinion. And again, remember to position your products and services as things that can help address their limitations.
- Opportunities are situations out in the marketplace, tailor-made to require use of your customers' products and services. I've always been amazed that as an outsider, I've been able to identify opportunities that my customer's employees just don't see. It's a simple matter of having a different perspective. By definition you as a sales rep, are an outsider, and therefore can't help but think outside the proverbial box. Don't worry if this doesn't produce immediate results for you. Your reward will come in its own good time.
- Threats are situations out in the marketplace that can cause real trouble for your customer. As with opportunities, you as an outsider are frequently able to discern a threat more quickly and easily. Again, your reward will probably come later, but it'll be worth the wait.