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Sales Strategies
The Quest for Market Dominance
By Timothy McMahon, McMahon Worldwidwe

A market dominance strategy, from territory to contact requires focus by the entire sales organization and a set of integrated business planning processes firmly in place.

Market Dominance. It is the often unstated but very real goal of every business. For many companies, however, it is more a dream than an achievable reality. Nonetheless, today's marketplace is full of opportunity for companies with the vision, drive, and knowledge to become market leaders.

"Market Dominance" may be thought of as an organization attaining the majority share of the available market for their products or services and establishing an unassailable, long-term competitive position. The definition may be straightforward but the "how to" is somewhat less so. After all, achieving market dominance will mean unseating the current market leader (which may be a much larger company with greater resources). It means winning new customers by taking "satisfied" customers away from the competition! It will require a focused effort by the company with a high degree of risk! No wonder many organisations think twice before launching a concerted drive to become the market leader.

Is the key to market dominance found in new product innovation? Added-value selling? Superior customer service? Aggressive pricing? Intensive marketing? Improved sales skills? Expanded manufacturing/distribution capacity? New technologies such as sales automation or the internet? The answer is "all of these ... and much more". By itself, any one of these -- new products, added-value selling, customer service, pricing, marketing, skills, capacity, and technology -- can produce a sales benefit and a competitive edge (at least until it is equaled or surpassed by a competitor). Market dominance requires all of these and one more ... a Victory of Strategy.

The Rule of Market Dominance: To dominate a market, you must dominate every sales territory or market area. To dominate a territory you must dominate the key accounts (customers) within it. To dominate the key accounts, you must win the majority of the sales opportunities in each account. To dominate the opportunities you must dominate the contact relationships, i.e., individual contacts who make or influence each sales decision ...and to lose one is to lose all.

Strategy Tools

Market dominance requires a new set of sales tools. In order of importance, the first is "Strategy Tools".

As "The Rule of Market Dominance" suggests, it requires an increasingly complex set of strategies and tactics to win each of the contact relationships, opportunities, accounts, and territories that make up a company's market. For example, winning a complex sales opportunity (multiple contacts, long and complex decision cycle, etc.) requires a different set of strategies and sales tactics than "winning" an individual contact relationship. Winning a key account requires a salesperson to win all contacts plus win all account opportunities plus develop a plan to develop and protect the account ... and so forth.

Salespeople, for the most part, have been poorly equipped to plan and manage more than their contacts. Traditionally many sales organizations have focused only on building relationships with contacts, assuming that "winning" at this level was enough, i.e. if you won the contacts, the opportunities, accounts, and the territory must follow by default. Unfortunately it doesn't work out that way.

A market dominance strategy -- from territory to contact -- requires a new focus by the entire sales organization, and a set of integrated business planning tools ... or processes ... to help salespeople manage the added complexity of opportunities, key accounts, and territories.

Technology Tools

Unlike the past, today's salespeople rarely work in a vacuum. Not only must salespeople often work effectively with other parts of the organisation (sales teams, management, service, support, manufacturing, finance, etc.), their ability to execute their strategies increasingly depends on coordinating and communicating their strategies and customer data to each of them.

The ultimate value of sales force automation (SFA) technology is not in the "sales productivity tools" it contains, such as calendar, "to do" management, etc. SFA's greatest value is as a strategic planning tool and a company-wide communications infrastructure.

To begin with, the sales planning and analysis processes for contact, opportunity, account, and territory management should be built directly into SFA software. This allows for easy updating of plans throughout the year -- and the ability to electronically share real-time plan and sales progress data with sales team members, sales management, marketing, and others who can benefit from "live" customer information.

Other SFA sales tools such as product configurators can help salespeople quote and price products more rapidly than ever before -- and may even provide specific value and convienence to the customer. Again, however, their greatest value may be in increased configuration accuracy with immediate communications to order entry and manufacturing or distribution -- resulting in increased customer satisfaction.

Technology further provides the company (and salesperson) improved ways to communicate directly with the customer. Marketing encyclopedias can deliver extremely detailed and accurate product data via a variety of media and communications technologies. Even "simple" tools such as electronic mail, web sites, and fax enhance customer communications.

Technology tools can link the customer to the company through the salesperson or directly through on-line computer capabilities such as the internet or intranets. In either case, both company and customer can mutually provide and share information critical to the success and satisfaction of both.

Putting It All Together

We began with the question: "Is the key to market dominance found in new product innovation? Added-value selling? Superior customer service? Aggressive pricing? Intensive marketing? Improved sales skills? Expanded manufacturing/distribution capacity? New technologies such as sales automation or the internet?" The answer was: "All of these ... and more". A company's potential to excel in each of these areas -- and potential for market dominance -- can be viewed in terms of its strategic and its technology tools.

  • New product innovation can create market position but only if the new product is one which will create customer demand. Using technology can enable a product planning group to more accurately assess customer needs and new product response.
  • Added-Value Selling strategies depend on an understanding of what represents real value to a customer. "Live" customer data combined with "strategic account, opportunity, and contact profiling can enable the sales organization to develop and deliver "on-target" added-value programs.
  • Superior customer service depends on customer knowledge by "everyone who touches the customer". Customer information and business plans, provided through technology tools, enables the development of focused offerings with more "personalized" customer service.
  • Aggressive pricing can be an effective sales tool when used to attain a defined market goal and based on the availability of the comprehensive, accurate market knowledge that technology and strategy tools can provide.
  • Marketing programs are only as good as their focus. Are they targeted at the right buyers, with the right message, at the right time? The solution: again, comprehensive, accurate market knowledge that technology and strategy tools can provide.
  • The ability of manufacturing/distribution to correctly anticipate demand is critical to any organisation's success. Connecting these groups directly to the sales "pipeline" -- current sales opportunities -- allows them to track progress and more accurately adjust long term capacity and inventory planning.
  • And Sales Skills ... salespeople who are "armed" with better customer and prospect information and comprehensive planning processes increase their capability to make better sales decisions, i.e. execute the right sales tactic, the to right contact, with the right message, at the right time, to achieve optimum results.

Achieving market dominance is, of course, more than just implementing strategy and technology tools. It depends upon people -- people in every area of the company who are motivated, willing, and capable of doing their jobs in a superior manner. This may be the greatest challenge of all. We do know one thing for sure, however. Our people will never do their jobs in a manner than enables us to create market dominance if we fail to provide them with the necessary tools.

Tim McMahon is the bestselling author of four books on Sales and Technology including Selling 2000 - The Vision and Promise of CRM and The Sales Management Equation. He is a frequent conference keynote speaker and advises clients around the globe on sales process and technology strategies. McMahon is the founder of SalesConference.Net headquartered in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

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