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Talk to B2B service or product providers and you’ll likely hear about solution selling.

Fair enough. You don’t want to buy something and still have the problem afterward. You want your problem to go away and never come back another day.

The challenge is there are often multiple problems and multiple solutions. If it’s unclear which problem and which solution the potential client and provider are trying to address, the provider’s proposed solution can be way off the mark. If multiple providers are competing for the opportunity, they may be trying to solve different problems. That further adds to the likelihood of problem-solution mismatches.

We had one recently.

A potential client had already identified a time window for a strategic thinking session, the senior management group to participate, and the expectation of having a productive conversation leading to greater brand strategy clarity.

The company had contacted another firm to facilitate the discussion. Due to schedule conflicts, the other potential provider referred the company to us at the last minute. With no actual direct conversation with the potential client, we created a strategic thinking session plan for answering the brand strategy questions and issues we identified based on skeletal information.

Brainzooming Strategic Thinking Session

A Brainzooming strategic thinking session. Photo courtesy of Jason Harper.

After multiple emails, we finally talked with the client two days before the planned discussion time. Everything was going well as we discussed our approach and the proposed end deliverable: a definitive, consensus-oriented, strategic roadmap for the company to address its brand situation.

Then we got to the price.

Our price was five times higher than what the other potential provider proposed.

Doh!

Discussing this with the potential client, the difference was clear.

The other provider’s solution was showing up to be a neutral, albeit knowledgeable party, who would “host” a discussion.

That was a solution, but only to a VERY narrow interpretation of the problem, i.e., managing the allotted time for a discussion with a little follow up.

We were addressing delivering the answer they needed to move forward with a brand strategy and implementation in the few months their management group is expecting. We’d proposed addressing the bigger problem the potential client was admittedly facing. The other provider had proposed (and set a price expectation) for a small solution to a much narrower problem.

The big learning was even though I don’t use the term, we are solution selling. We don’t just show up and facilitate. We identify, plan, manage, and deliver a strategic outcome. In other words, our focus is creating strategic impact. That’s why we ensure all the planning and meeting conditions lead to a real result. That’s why we create a definitive series of exercises leading to the desired strategic outcome.

That’s why we don’t simply stand in front of a whiteboard, ask a few questions, and capture some notes.

It’s all part of the difference between facilitating a meeting and creating strategic impact. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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We have been developing a new competitive intelligence process for a client. The B2B company wants to better collect, analyze, and disseminate valuable insights on competitive strategy.

As with many competitive intelligence systems, especially in B2B settings, much of the most timely and otherwise unavailable intelligence will come from the salesforce. Similarly, the salesforce is in one of the best positions to take advantage of competitive intelligence to better position products, value propositions, and offers to customers to stymie competitive strategy.

It is vital, however, to ensure the competitive intelligence process is not simply asking for competitive intelligence from salespeople, and then giving it back to them without adding sufficient value.

6 Ways to Enhance Competitive Intelligence from the Salesforce

Heard-On-The-Street

To combat this possibility, here are six enhancements to competitive intelligence that originates with the salesforce to deliver new value:

  1. Aggregate information from multiple people to provide a view no one individual has in order to see patterns or spot trends.
  2. Perform additional and deeper analysis on the raw information to create new understanding.
  3. Communicate information to senior leadership that salespeople feel intently, but that is typically lost in the corporate shuffle (i.e., a regional or niche competitor who is not big enough to get corporate-wide attention).
  4. Disprove or verify early rumors salespeople have reported to address the word on the street.
  5. Exploit the availability of non-sales sources to enhance the raw intelligence and deliver new information to them.
  6. Make if more efficient for sales to gather and especially share competitive intelligence with a process that funnels competitive intelligence to them when they need it.

Is a more robust competitive strategy in your plans?

If your organization needs to boost the value of competitive intelligence from your salesforce, give us a call or email. We’d love to talk to you about how we apply our Brainzooming techniques to efficiently gathering information from broad sources and turning it into actionable competitive intelligence. – Mike Brown

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I’m not proud of this list of entrepreneurial frustrations, but that does not make them any less real. No matter the size of an organization, there are ample opportunities for things to not go as planned – whether that is unintentional or intentional on the part of someone else.

Strategic Thinking on Entrepreneurial Frustrations

1. Hitting your deadline when the other party couldn’t hit its own deadline.

2. People saying one thing and doing another.

3. Feeling like you are all by yourself at times.

4. Somebody not trying hard enough.

5. Not spending enough time on the right things.

6. Finding it easier to undercut rather than stand up for yourself.

7. Getting excluded for no apparent reason.

8. Accepting the exclusion rather than asking, “Why?”

9. Standing by as “the hurt gets worse and the heart gets harder.”

10. Denial.

11. Not doing the tough strategic thinking and taking the easy way out.

What entrepreneurial frustrations bedevil you?

Do you ever get to the point where any of them drop off your list? – Mike Brown

 

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Does your organization have good ideas, but lacks effective  ways to bring them to reality? The Brainzooming Group and our collaborative, implementation-oriented planning techniques will quickly move you toward success. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call  816-509-5320  for a free consultation on how to get started.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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If you want to improve your organization’s innovation successes, how about going to school on your competitors?

Skeptical? Don’t be!

7 Things Competitors Can Teach You about Innovation

Here are 7 areas your competitors can teach you about innovation. You can answer these questions to better understand the pros and cons, whys and wherefores of how competitors in your industry are addressing innovation and what it means for your brand.

School-Zone

1. Where have competitors traditionally beat us to market with innovative ideas?

Based on the answer, look for reasons why competitors are beating your brand to market. Is your brand ruling out certain strategic moves, missing opportunities for innovation, or lagging during implementation? What do the answers suggest about innovating differently in the future?

2. Which innovations have come from traditional competitors versus newer players?

Generate a list from the past several years of significant innovations in your industry. Do this by asking various people in your business (or even your industry) for their recollections. Consolidate the lists into a timeline. Review the results to see which players are pursuing a competitive strategy based on innovation to drive change in your industry.

3. What signals did competitors make before introducing recent innovations?

Use your list from question 2 to look backward to recent innovations. What were competitors doing and saying prior to introducing these innovations. While you won’t find them in every case, it’s worthwhile to identify whether competitors have any corporate “tells” that signal their innovation moves before they reach the marketplace.

4. How would our competitors develop and introduce our brand’s newest innovation differently?

On one hand, if there are dramatically different innovation strategies competitors are using relative to yours, that could be VERY good. Alternatively, these differences could signal your brand is missing strategic opportunities. You need to look at the situation and judge which it is.

5. How long do competitors stick with an innovation that’s not working?

Can you identify a pattern for how much time competitors allow newly-introduced innovations to thrive, survive, or die? Look for relationships (cost, visibility, etc.) that explain any pattern that might exist.

6. Are competitors introducing innovations we couldn’t profitably produce and sell at comparable prices?

It’s vital to assess whether your brand’s inability to match the price of a competitor’s recently-introduced innovation is because of its cost advantages, a difference in cost structure or allocations, a deliberately aggressive / share-gaining price, strategic brilliance, or stupidity. Any one or a combination of these suggests competitive strategy problems.

7. Have competitors introduced successful innovations with inferior features to ours?

If a competitor can introduce a successful innovation with seemingly fewer features than your offerings and still be successful, the competitor may have figured out customers are looking for something different. That difference may be a preference for simpler, cheaper, or easier to use innovations.

Competitive Strategy Lessons about Innovation

See what we mean?

Your competitors could be the best source you have to learn a lot more about how to improve your innovation successes in the future.  – Mike Brown

 

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The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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As mentioned in our article on integrating spiritual and business lives, Stephen Lahey (of SmallBusinessTalent.com) and I recorded a podcast conversation on the topic. We discussed motivations, benefits, and occasional challenges to having one’s spiritual life placed front and center as you make business decisions and chart your course as an entrepreneur. I think of it as strategic living.

Stephen has published the podcast, and I’d invite you to both listen and respond to our conversation on integrating spiritual and business lives as an entrepreneur.

spirituality-and-business

You should also subscribe to his SmallBusinessTalent.com updates. You’ll receive notification each Wednesday about Stephen’s featured guest on that week’s podcast, plus a brief Sunday update with a business tip, suggested content to peruse, or a personal reflection.

I really appreciate Stephen’s support for Brainzooming. He has shared multiple strategic ideas for us from his vantage point as a reader and entrepreneur. Additionally, his recommendations on business development and client relations approaches have translated into thousands of dollars of new revenue and profit we’d have otherwise not captured.

That’s pretty incredible ROI!

Given those impacts, if you’re an entrepreneur with a small business, I’d encourage you to reach out to Stephen about the consultation he offers to entrepreneurs. He has the experience (having been an entrepreneur for well over a decade), and he is very efficient and accurate at sizing up business situations. Stephen translates those insights into actionable strategies with tools he’s used to grow and cultivate his own entrepreneurial ventures.

So take a break from Brainzooming today, visit SmallBusinessTalent.com to engage in the conversation on strategic living, and think hard about whether Stephen could help you with a new, trusted, and veteran perspective to gain more ideal clients, profitability, and fulfillment. - Mike Brown

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Download the free ebook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative thinking and ideas! For an organizational innovation and strategic thinking success boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I find it surprising when someone discusses the advantages of entrepreneurship and mentions, “You don’t have to work for somebody else.”

This sentiment seems incredibly naive.

Amid this second round of entrepreneurship in my career, it’s clear you certainly DO work for somebody else

In fact, if you serve multiple and varied clients, an entrepreneur works for more somebody elses than is ever typical in a corporate job.  That’s been the case for me without exception. Despite a variety of competing interests and priorities in the corporate world, it was easy to separate the one or two people I was working for versus all the other people who thought I was working for them.

Such clarity isn’t necessarily there as an entrepreneur.

Serving a B2B market, I’ll admit that it’s not always clear what is going on inside a client’s four walls. It’s easy to be on the outside and NOT looking in as internal politics, cumbersome processes, and questionable motivations slow down what should seem to go more smoothly and quickly.

I realized the other day, however, what people are really talking about as the “not working for someone else” advantage entrepreneurs have.

Talking with someone who works for a company that provides services in the B2B market, she was reflecting on a recent client interaction. The client hadn’t provided solid planning information upfront. As a result, there was confusion about how vital processes and decisions would proceed. Her sense was that she, as the client contact for a relationship her employer held, couldn’t set the client straight. She wound up biting her tongue on multiple important issues because it was a client. The best she felt she could do in challenging the situation was to offer two strong suggestions to attempt to correct the situation.

Having my own business, however, I’d have been in a different position to act. If pushing back to the client resulted in losing the business, I would be in the position to fully understand that impact and shoulder the full ramifications of it. As an employee, she wasn’t in a position to do that.

If you have someone paying you, you are working for somebody else whether as an entrepreneur or as an employee. Maybe what people really mean about not working for somebody else is that an entrepreneur can talk back and take action against the whoever is paying more effectively than an employee.

In that case, I’d have to agree with them. – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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When something bad happens that NEVER happens, and it screws up your time-tested business process, how much effort do you invest to make changes and minimize the chances of it ever happening again?

That was the strategic thinking topic for a recent dinner conversation.

Trash-Can

After sitting through another organization’s design process that went bad in a way it never had over many years of use, we were diagnosing what could have been done differently. And while I was sitting there observing the whole time, it wasn’t completely clear to me what I would have done differently:

  • Would I have isolated a problematic, unnecessarily detailed team member to try and salvage the effort of the participants who were being productive?
  • Would I have called time out to try to pin down the apparent leader of the effort on who the real decision maker was?
  • Would I have improvised a quick exercise to make the group prioritize the seemingly never ending and odd array of constraints the problematic team member kept introducing?

Or all three?

Fortunately, it wasn’t my deal so I didn’t have to decide.

In talking with the facilitators later, I learned that this design session’s arc was unlike any encountered in many years of using their process.

While I was quick to offer strategic thinking about what they could change in their business process, I ultimately called B.S. on myself. I told them they should dismiss my advice because I spend WAY TOO MUCH time fixing one-off bad facilitation situations that will never happen again. Doing that makes me feel better and more comfortable, but it may really be wasted effort that never delivers real benefit.

So, no strategic thinking answers today.

Only that nagging question: When is it worth the effort to fix the once in a lifetime crappy situation with a business, just in case it might happen again?

It’s a strategic thinking topic ‘m mulling over, as I’m sure they are.

What do you think? – Mike Brown

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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