Eight years ago I remember going to a meeting with a well-known Japanese bank. I was pitching penetration testing, or if we’re being technically correct, security assessments.
Days before, my son had been violently assaulted whilst sitting in his maths class at college. The attacker had smashed a chair over his head, picked him up from the floor and beaten him unconscious. Thankfully my son survived but he had to take a year out of college to recover.
As you can imagine those few days after were stressful and busy. I had meetings with his headmaster; calls with the police and Health & Safety officers; and was taking him to appointments with doctors and physiotherapists.
I also had a business to run and meetings to attend. To many it would seem like it was business as usual. However, it was far from that.
So, there I was sitting in front of a Head of IT Security. It had taken me 2-hours to get there and I’d left my son to do so. I wasn’t happy about it either, but you do what you have to do. The meeting had been qualified, which meant that the prospect was performing regular penetration tests, had a need, and was interested in my company.
As usual I introduced myself, set out the agenda and began to tell her about who we were and what made us special.
And then she said it…
“You’re wasting my time. You pen testing companies are all the same. I can’t tell the difference between you.”
Her flippant comment hit a nerve and I replied.
“I value my time and have given it up to see you. This meeting is qualified. If we were all the same I wouldn’t be here. But, I will go now rather than waste any more of my time if you’re not going to listen to me.”
I got up and was ready to walk out of the room.
She stopped. Apologised and the meeting continued.
I had no hesitation in saying and doing that. I knew how good we were. I knew our worth. And quite frankly if she wasn’t going to listen to me I’d have sooner left so that I could be with my son.
Whilst she’d initially put my back up, as someone who strives for continual improvement, I’d silently taken on board her remark. Inadvertently too, she’d reminded me of a quote by David Ogilvy, the man who’s often hailed as the “father of advertising.”
Ogilvy once said, “There isn’t any significant difference between the various brands of whiskey, or cigarettes, or beer. They are all about the same. And so are the cake mixes, the detergents and the margarines… The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.”
He had a point and so did she. Perception is reality and reality is nothing. Things had to change.
When you look at income distribution for every single industry, including cyber security, you can see how this plays out. The top 1% earn around 30% of the income; the top 10% earn around 70% of the income and the bottom 89% share the remaining 30%.
Therefore, if you’ve got aspirations to take the largest share of the market, run with the performers in the 1% zone, you’ve got to visibly show that you:
- Have a PhD in your market’s problems.
- Offer more of what your market wants.
- Do the ordinary things extraordinarily well.
So, let’s go through them.
Have a PhD in your markets problems
If you don’t understand your market’s problems then you’re not going to be able to connect with them and at an emotional level. If you can’t connect with them at this level you won’t sell anything.
So, when I work with my clients, to help them with this I typically get them to do an avatar exercise. I want to assess how well they know their clients and prospective clients.
A client avatar (or persona or client profile) is a two-page profile that represents your target buyers and is one of the most important exercises you can do if you’re responsible for developing business. It sets the foundation for both sales and marketing activities and enables you to see your product or service through the buying eyes of your target.
They’re important to do and for all your buyers, decision-makers and influencers as you’ll gain a clearer understanding, which will help you attract them.
In order to attract the right buyers you need to know as much as you can about them. By demonstrating this through the information you share you’ll differentiate yourself from your competition, which will build trust and then sales.
The key features you’ll need to discover are:
- What are the business demographics
- What are their challenges and pains points
- What are their emotional drivers
- How do they prefer to consume information
- Where do they hang out – online and offline
- Where do they look for information
- What do they like doing in their spare time
Offer more of what your market wants
As obvious as this sounds you’d be surprised at how few companies do this. More often than not they decide what their market wants. Sometimes they do this arrogantly as they think they know best. Sometimes they forget or are just unaware of the mistake they’re making. And, sometimes they ask but just don’t listen.
By doing a client avatar exercise you can start to resolve this. However, you’ll need to do more. You’ll need to ask them:
- What they’re not getting but would like.
- What would make their job easier to do.
- Where they think there’s a gap in the market.
Listen carefully to what they say and the words they use. Write these down if you can as these can be used later in pitches and/or for content marketing.
Do the ordinary things extraordinarily well.
For me this is so simple, yet so few companies ensure it’s actually done. It means operating with integrity, doing what you say you’re going to do and ensuring that every experience someone has with your business is remarkable.
Here’s an example.
I was speaking to a 7-figure company recently who like most wanted to reach more prospects, convert more leads and make more money. They were growing fast and from the information I heard seemed to have everything in place – a great team and processes. I was impressed and literally couldn’t fault them. However, that was until I called them up.
Can you guess what happened?
The phone rang and rang and rang and rang. I tried again. And again. And again. And the same thing happened. No one picked up. I was surprised as I knew they had three receptionists and an office full of staff. Clearly something wasn’t working.
A few weeks later I called again. I got through to a receptionist but she was unable to put me through as the switchboard system had frozen. As soon as I could I spoke to my contact and relayed my experience.
Imagine lining everything up; spending thousands of pounds in marketing campaigns; training sales teams; recruiting quality employees in order to win and deliver business and then falling at the first hurdle.
It’s so basic but if your prospects and clients can’t get through to you it’s a major fail!
Now this is just one example but I regularly see so many. Often they’re ordinary things like calling back when you say you’re going to, or being responsive when a lead is called in, or answering the phone professionally. Or delivering a test report on time, or following up after a test to check that the quality of the deliverable met the client’s expectations. Or, thanking someone for seeing you after a meeting, or a supplier for proposing, or someone who’s emailed you speculatively for a job. My list could go on and on….
Every time someone engages with you – whether it’s on social media, your website, the phone, a webex, or in email, at your office or at an event, or at their premises, you must provide a remarkable experience – whether they buy from you or not.
Brands like Apple and Virgin do this so well. If you study them you’ll see that they’ve mastered the art and convey their expertise, culture, attention to detail, passion, credibility, humanity as well as their products or services at every client or customer touch point.
They’ve mastered the art of doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well.
Now I want to hear from you…
Tell me in the comments below or in a private email:
- How do you ensure you and your teams understand their buyers?
- How are you delivering a remarkable experience at every touch point?
Please share your stories and experience here, and if you’ve got a question, just pop it down here. If you want to contact me to discuss how you can improve business development for you or your team click here.
PS. The big favour ask…
I’m on a mission. I believe passionately in entrepreneurship and cyber security. I want to see more survive and thrive so more businesses can be protected. If you want to help and share my beliefs, please just share my posts.
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