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Vendor Ploys

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Presenting vs. Positioning by Steve Gutzman

Most sellers feel compelled to share as much information with the buyer as possible, operating under the age-old maxim that more is always better.  But is it?

Most vendor presentations will start with the obligatory company history and a list of their worldwide office locations, partner relationships, industry awards, and all their big client names — IBM, Pfizer, Bank of America, and the like.  They continue on in press-release-like fashion with words and phrases like “state of the art,” “robust,” “leading edge,” “innovative,” “first mover advantage,” “patent pending,” “one-stop shopping,” “market-leading solutions,” “strategic partnerships,” and “proven ROI paybacks.”  These may all be accurate, but this one-way

onversation so far has nothing specifically to do with the customer and the challenges they are trying to solve.
As a starting point, vendors should be thinking relevance.  Are they relevant?  All those things — history, locations, awards, clients — are they relevant?  Remember, most of the time the customer is still trying to figure out whether they need to move away from the status quo and here the vendor is giving the company biography.

A good salesperson understands the difference between presenting a solution and positioning a solution.  In short, presenting is telling the story from the vendor’s point of view and positioning is telling the story from the customer’s point of view.  We’ve all sat through the meeting where the vendor says, “I have good news and bad news.  The bad news is I have 75 slides.  The good news is I won’t be going through them all.”  Then they proceed to go through them all.

Consider the following: A vendor presenting a Microsoft Excel replacement would have lots of colorful charts on trace precedents, macros, binary to hexadecimal conversion, and a host of other features the typical Excel user has never seen before.  A vendor positioning a Microsoft Excel replacement would simply say, “Our spreadsheet program can do lots of different things.  Can you share with me the most important functions you need in order to do your job most efficiently?” And other questions like that.

So the next time you’re sitting around the conference table and the vendor starts up the PowerPoint presentation, give them permission to skip to the part that applies to your company.  Positioning is not complicated, but salespeople sometimes cannot help themselves when it comes to talking about their products.