Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shadow Boxing

I have never met him. I don't know his name. But I know he exists. Taiwan, Japan, Korea, our trails keep crossing. He isn't a very worthy adversary, although that will be proved by who wins the most accounts.

The competition isn't direct. We don't sit in the same room and debate our respective products. Rather the debate is indirect, done through the customer. So I might hear: "I understand that your product has some delays?" Or, even lamer: "Your competition claims that he is the only vendor approved at our major customer, Nokia. What do you say to that?."

Of course I must respond, countering first with a block: "Don't be preposterous, Nokia NEVER single sources anything." The customer smiles, nodding in agreement. He deals with Nokia and understands their business. Then comes the counter punch: "But do keep in mind that we are the only profitable, public company selling this technology. The competition is private and has no revenue. Who do you think is going to be sitting in front of you a year from now?"

It's all about FUD: Fear, Uncertainly and Doubt. That's what sales guys do at accounts to assail the competition. I get to hear about my FUD, leave FUD about him. It is an interesting game to play. The combat is never direct, always through the customer. I like to leave different FUD at different accounts, keeping my competition off balance, not knowing what the next customer is going to say. In contrast he keeps saying the same things at all the customers. That lets me address my FUD in the opening presentation, getting the objections out of the way before the customer even asks a question.

Of course winning the FUD game is just the beginning of winning an account. I still have to negotiate and close the deal, with the "back-up" waiting in the wings in case I screw up. But at that point the customer is mine to win or lose.

No comments: