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Table Stakes Are Changing — How Do We Up The Ante?

by David Brock on June 23rd, 2009

I just finished a conversation with a client. He is the EVP of Sales for a high performing sales organization. We were talking about the challenge of setting his company’s offerings apart from the competition—continuing to differentiate their solutions.

For a few moments, we spoke about the “good old days.” We reflected on how things had changed, what used to set them apart is now a common expectation—all the competitors deliver the same capability or experience, the customers now have new expectations — the table stakes have changed!

Table stakes are constantly changing, the ante is continually increasing. If we aren’t changing–in fact driving the change, we will not win. Thinking about the good old days doesn’t close sales.

The new reality of competing in sales, the new (or at least today’s) table stakes are:

  • Customers are better informed than ever before and will continue to be well
    informed. Before you have ever met with the customer, they have “pre-screened”
    you through Internet research–you won’t get in the door unless your company has
    represented itself well in the electronic-Sale 2.0 world.
  • Your product/service doesn’t count. By the time you are meeting with your customer,
    probably any of the alternatives they have “short listed” will meet their need.
    Focusing on pitching features, functions, feeds and speeds just wastes their and
    your time.
  • Some of the other things we relied about in the past like quality, delivery, logistics may not be the differentiators they once were.

When you are invited to the table, all of these are already on the table and roughly equal for all participants, how do you up the ante? Some thoughts:

  • The biggest: What do you do for the customer—both the enterprise and the individuals involved in the decision? How do you help increase profits, grow their business, increase the loyalty of their customers? Frankly, the customers don’t care about you, your products and company, they care about what you can do for them.
  • How do you create a compelling customer buying experience? Customer experience is the rage in product development and design. As sales professionals we need to start thinking about the customer experience in the buying process. How do we become facilitators in the buying process? How do we create a hassle free experience—both in the buying and the implementation processes?
  • How do we, as sales professionals, become the differentiator that causes our companies to win?

Table stakes have changed, if we aren’t constantly thinking about how we can up the ante, we will have to fold our hands, we may not even be dealt in. What ideas to you have to raise the ante?

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