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SBWA — Selling By Wandering Around

by David Brock on March 23rd, 2009
In their 1982 book, In Search Of Excellence, Peters and Waterman coined the acronym: MBWA – Management By Wandering Around. The thought was for managers to literally get close to customers and their people by “wandering around.”

I thought it time to resurface a variant of that theme: SBWA, Selling By Wandering Around. I’m constantly amazed by how little sales professionals to this.

Too many sales people call on the same people, asking the same question, “Can I sell you anything today?” The more solutions oriented sales people will question needs and priorities, but make the same mistake of calling on the same people in the same accounts.

It’s time for sales people to start wandering around in their accounts. I often tell people, if you normally turn right when you walk in the front door, next time turn left. You will discover entirely new things about your account and their needs.

Recently, I wrote about the “Big Idea.” The example I cited there was an example of how a client discovered entirely new needs and applications for their products by talking to different people in the organization.

Another example, years ago, I was working with a company that made sophisticated instruments that engineers used to design and develop new high tech products. In the labs of every engineering organization you could find lots of their products. In looking at their growth strategy, we asked them, “What about manufacturing?” The initial response was, “No, our customers are engineers designing new products.”

We decided to ignore this and went to talk to manufacturing people to learn what they did. Making a long story short, this client ultimately found their biggest market opportunity was not in engineering, but in manufacturing, helping to test products in the production process and at the end of the line. Unless we, and a few brave sales people, hadn’t turned left instead of normally turning right, we never would have discovered this opportunity.

I could give countless examples of others that have done this and the results they produce, but you get the point. Start practicing SBWA in your accounts. Systematically, talk to new people within the accounts. Get lost wandering your customers’ halls and meet new people. Learn what they do. You’ll never know what you might discover.

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