How to Sell Your Competition

The president of a company was frustrated with the poor sales traction he was getting out of his sales team. He told me they were getting the leads and the appointments. Yet when it came time to close the deal, invariably they found an unwelcome guest lurking about the prospect… their competition.

Frequently the competition would come in at the 11th hour and hijack the deal from my friend’s company. He summarized his sentiments with, “I feel like we could write a manual in how to sell our competition!” We both laughed, but I could tell he wasn’t happy about it.

It got me to think, how could someone help to sell his or her competition? Really, if they put their mind to it, how would it be done? I’ve seen it done unwittingly dozens of time, in sales situations around the globe. Perhaps there might be some wisdom garnered by shining a satirical light on the ways to help sell your competition. Here’s a funny but serious look at how I would coach you to help sell your competition, rather than your own solution.

First, I would be a generalist, be everything to everybody. Don’t try and be different, or claim any specific niche or expertise. If you’ve spent years developing specific features or traits to your product, do not plant your flag at the top of the mountain; instead wait for everyone else to arrive at the top with you and take a group picture, you and your competition… now isn’t that nice?

Second, be the one doing the talking; don’t let the prospect control the conversation. Try not to ask any questions, unless they are yes or no questions. Remember you have many features and functions about your solution you need to get out there for your buyer to choose from. Just assume you know your buyer’s problem, then spend most of the time telling them about your “solution.” In time, you might just wear them down so they buy from you.

Third, the more information you give the better. Obviously the buyer will buy the minute they hear the right solution, so you need to just keep carpet-bombing them with your feature-list and company information. Tell them all about your company, how many employees, number of offices with a map of the world, a slide with all your client logos, and don’t forget the executive pictures. Don’t talk about your unique features unless you mask them with a litany of less compelling features and functions. Throw as much up on the wall as possible and see what sticks.

Forth, impress your prospect with your technical expertise. Don’t try and solve their issues, it’s better if they know that you know your stuff. If they challenge you, push back; don’t let your prospect push you around. Remember, you’re the expert, not their servant. You may need to come down to your prospects level and teach them; never grovel or show your desire to serve them.

Finally, discount, discount, discount. If all else fails, lower your price. You buyer is more concerned about the price they pay than solving their problems. Value, especially, unique value, is over-rated. It’s just silly to think that someone would value quality over price when buying a car for his or her family; or someone choosing expertise over price when selecting a heart surgeon for their mother; or someone choosing location over price when selecting the neighborhood to build their dream home. The only thing that buyers care about is paying less for a product.

So there you have it, the best ways to help sell your competition.

  • Be a generalist, don’t be an expert & try to be different
  • Be the one doing the talking and don’t ask questions
  • Carpet-bomb the buyer with information, don’t focus on your unique features
  • Show-off your expertise, don’t worry about persuasion & service
  • Discount, discount, discount is more important than trying to solve their problems

Now re-read this article and see if you can spot how you can spot what it take to outsell your competition, rather than helping sell your competition. Happy selling!

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ArrowHead3 Consulting in the News: SPN News

In 2011 I was asked to deliver a keynote speech to the State Policy Network (SPN). SPN is a network of state think tanks with the focus on the free-market.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed our work with this organization. I’ve seen firsthand the struggle of telling the free-market story; in my research for the SPN work I found that Ronald Reagan was perhaps the finest messenger of the free-market story.

SPN asked me to write an article to summarize how their think tanks can better tell their story. We were honored to make it to the cover.

Download it here

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Tragedy to Triumph, a look at Walt Disney

One of the most painful things for a sales person is losing a deal they thought they had. Trust me, I know! Awhile ago, I lost a big deal that I thought was going to close, but at the last minute the client went with another vendor. The deal was big and strategic; I knew our solution was the best thing for the client, but it wasn’t to be.

It reminded me of an experience of one of my heros, Walt Disney. In 1927 Disney was a budding cartoonist and introduced a new character called “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” for Universal Studios. He had just finished a successful series called the “Alice Comedies” and “Oswald” was just starting to become popular. In the spring of 1928, Disney and his wife Lilly went to New York City to ask his employer Charles Mintz to have Universal increase his budget for “Oswald.”

But Mintz had gone behind Disney’s back and signed most of Disney’s employees to a new contract with Universal. Mintz then demanded that Disney take a 20 percent budget cut. As leverage, Mintz reminded Disney that Universal owned “Oswald.” Mintz was unrelenting, and further demanded that Disney give up his own business and work exclusively for him. Disney refused and said, “you can keep the staff.” Disney left New York without most of his staff and without “Oswald.”

Before Disney and his wife Lilly boarded the train home, he sent his brother Roy a telegram: “LEAVING TONIGHT STOPPING OVER KC ARRIVE HOME SUNDAY MORNING SEVEN THIRTY DON’T WORRY EVERYTHING OK WILL GIVE DETAILS WHEN ARRIVE — WALT.” Disney’s unflappable faith and optimism would soon pay off. He was already working on a way to make the telegram come true by the time he arrived home. He knew that he had to come up with a new character. And so he dreamed up the idea of a mouse on long train ride back to California. At first Disney thought he’d call his new creation Mortimer. But Lilly didn’t like that name. “How about Mickey?” she asked.

Soon after Disney got home, he finished his commitment to Universal for the first season of “Oswald” and began creating three cartoons starring his new character, Mickey Mouse (a slightly altered Oswald the Rabbit to avoid litigation). And the rest is what you might say is history.

Perhaps the most important benefit to Disney was his conclusion to never again use a “middle man” and to own his own characters. Mickey Mouse would become The Walt Disney Company’s most lasting symbol: Mickey Mouse, the most famous of Walt Disney’s characters.

Shortly after I lost that deal, I made some small but fundamental changes to my business that became the core of my current business. Without the loss, that improvement would never have been made. So when you think you’ve lost a big deal, pull up your bootstraps, get on the train and go make Mickey!

Happy Selling,
Kevan Kjar

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Sell Less Better!

I’ve been taking a class from a renown profession from Emory University entitled “The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator.” I enjoy seeing how he and other professors capture the attention of their students and make their teaching principles stick.

In one lecture, Professor Patrick N Allitt said that professors are not taught how to teach, but rather they learn all the details of a particular field of knowledge, then they are handed a class and told to teach what they know. I think the same is true to some extent of sales; when someone learns enough about a product they are handed a bag and quota and told to sell.

Professor Allitt teaches his students to go back to the basics, and teach them well. He spoke of professors who began the first day of a semester regurgitating an overloaded syllabi of content and then spending the semester speeding through the content hoping the students would memorize all the material and details. His conclusion to this lecture was to “teach less better.” His intention is not to be less better, but to teach less, and to do it better; focus on the basics, then they will have the foundation within themselves to learn the rest in the future.

Sales is the same way. Have you ever noticed how a sales person would pack all the features of their product into a presentation with the hopes that the buyer might see something they like? We have names for this:
    “Spray and Pray”
    “Drive-by Demos”
    “Show-up and Throw-up”
Remember your buyer will likely only take away three to four things away from your presentation. So if you give them twenty things, what are the chances that they will take away the three things that you really want them to take? Things that you’re really good at, and that competitors can’t do as well. You see the problem!

So as you pull together your presentation and your messages, think what really matters most to your buyer, and what can you do better than anyone else? Now prioritize your presentation down to these three to four messages. This part of the secret to our ArrowHead process… Sell Less Better; sell less, and do it better so it sticks with your buyer.

I like the quote by Antoine de Saint Exupery (author of “Le Petit Prince”). He said, “You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.” I like it so much I put it on the back of my business card. This simple practice always challenges you to focus on what’s most important.

So next time you’re prepping for an important buyer meeting, bring all you know about the buyer to the table, and narrow your focus to those items that would be most important to them, then zero in on the items that they respond to. If you don’t know what’s most important to them, do better discovery so you can narrow your discussion to those three to four items that are most critical. Put all your efforts around these areas and make them stick; your closing rate will go up, and your story will be much clearer. Remember, sell less better!

Happy Selling,
Kevan Kjar

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Purpose, Passion & Power


Viktor Frankl 1905-1997

Viktor Frankl 1905-1997

On a cold fall morning a few years ago, my college son and I boarded a bus in Krakow, Poland for Auschwitz. The verdant rolling hills were spotted with beautiful hamlets. It was cold, and a gentle drizzle fell that morning. We walked the cobbled roads, stood in the dingy prison quarters, and even walked through the gate of Auschwitz I with the sign overhead which read “Arbeit macht frei” (“work makes you free”). One of my driving forces for visiting this “off the beaten path” landmark was a book I read years earlier by an Austrian psychiatrist named Viktor Emil Frankl. His famous book? “Man’s Search for Meaning”

Frankl was Jewish prisoner in various Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Because of his psychiatric background, Frankl was asked to establish a special unit to help newcomers to the camp overcome shock and grief. He later set up a suicide watch unit, and all indications or attempts of suicide were reported to him. In that unique crucible, he was able to observe many that were physically strong and healthy and who should have survived, suffer and die. He also observed many weak and sickly prisoners who should have died, struggle yet survive. What gave the weak the power to survive? Meaning, a purpose to live.

Frankl uncovered a simple, yet powerful truth… men and women’s search for meaning gives them the passion and power to not only survive, but to inspire and help others. Frankl codified his findings into a new treatment he called “logotherapy” which literally means “meaning therapy.” The basic tenets of logotherapy are:

– Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
– Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
– We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, experience or take a stand with.

Now, what does this have to do with selling, marketing and storytelling? Everything! At about this same time I was doing much research in story structure, and I was trying to understand what the irreducible essence of “Story” was, and why was “Story” so omnipresent and effective. I was reading Joseph Campbell’s landmark book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, Christopher Vogler’s “The Writers Journey”, and Robert McKee’s classic “Story”.

After Auschwitz it hit me, the crystallization of “Story” is PURPOSE, or using Frankl’s word, MEANING. A great story describes a hero trying to accomplish some purpose, typically with great obstacles, but the hero struggles and either succeeds or fails. Our minds and hearts are attracted to “Story” like teenagers to texting; it’s been built into our DNA after generations of problem-solving and storytelling. We intuitively see stories as a rehearsal of someone, somewhere trying to overcome or accomplish something, and we know if we hear the end of the story, it just might give us a new tip or trick in how to better survive. We just can’t help loving stories.

Think of your favorite movie and ask yourself, who was the hero, what was their struggle or purpose, and what was the outcome. Wizard of Oz… Dorothy’s PURPOSE was to get back to Kansas and ultimately she confessed that “Oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home!” Star Wars… Luke Skywalker’s PURPOSE as to become a Jedi, and he deftly used the Force to destroy the Death Star. I love it when all these things come together!

But have you ever tried to put your product or solution into such a story? If you can, your buyer will quickly grasp what you do (because the story is about them), and they will easily be able to re-tell your story to others. That’s why I created the StoryArc to do just that, but that’s another discussion. Suffice it to say, “Facts tell, but Stories sell.” Contrast this to a dark room, 45 PowerPoint slides overloaded with bullets and tiny text, and gobs of features and functions and a dull, lifeless presenter… how hard will you make your buyer work to buy your product?

Yet when a team can determine the Purpose of their product or solution, they discover the heart of their Story, and it’s much easier to then wrap a story structure around it, and see how the buyer neatly fits in. When a team can know what their product can do, and how it can change the world… that is Passion!

What does Passion do for any sales person? Have your ever purchased a box of cookies from a Girl Scout because you liked their attitude when they showed up at your doorstep? Or did you ever forego a purchase, even something that you really, really wanted because the sales person was dull and lackluster in their enthusiasm for their product? Passion leads to POWER.

Trust me on this one. Over the years I’ve learned that if you can help a team discover their Purpose, you will notice a step-change in Passion for the product, and that Passion will close business; it’s pure power! So if you ever hear me ask you, “what is your story?” know that I’m asking you to tell me your Purpose. Your Purpose leads to Passion, and your Passion results in Power.

Happy Selling,
Kevan Kjar

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Chalet’s Trip to the Vet

A few weeks ago one of my dogs, an Airedale Terrier named “Chalet” had a bad abscess on her bottom, right near the tail. It was swollen, oozing and causing her a great deal of pain. I will spare you all the gross details, but your mind can imagine the issues with this condition.

I took her to our vet, a very capable and caring professional. I learned that my dog had an “anal gland abscess” and needed minor surgery to have it drained and cleaned. Fortunately it would only take a few hours. So I ran some errands while Chalet had this procedure done to alleviate her pain. I was walking the aisles of Home Depot when I got the call that my dog was out of surgery and all went well and that I could come pick her up.

When I came to pick up Chalet, I overheard the nurse tell the person in the back that the “anal gland guy is here to get his dog.” Now the lesson here is NOT that I was called the “anal gland guy” (but I can see how some might not like that), but rather why couldn’t they refer to my dog by her name, Chalet? Now I know the nurse cares for my dog, but imagine how much better it would have been for them to refer to my dog by name. THE most important word to your client is their name.

A week later, I took my two other dogs, miniature Schnauzers, Thumper and Maya, to a doggy daycare while we were traveling in southern Utah (Chalet was still at home with our friends). When we arrived at the Red Rock Pet Center, they took pictures of my dogs, gave them bright orange collars with their names on it and carefully took them to the play area. When I picked them up this morning Thumper and Maya were in great spirits. I picked up their old collars from a cubby with their names on it; also in the box was a stuffed toy with their names on it and report cards for each dog. I will go back there again!

Now contrast that to the “anal gland guy.” So next time you refer to your client, double-check that you use their name, rather than the problem they are having. Is it the “missed the quota guy” or is it “Tom, who wants to blow out his quota this year?” It’s more comfortable for your client and easier for them to use your services to work past their problem. I am not the “anal gland guy,” but rather I’m “Chalet’s owner”… or truth be told, I’m “Chalet’s servant” and she is the owner.

Happy Selling,
Kevan Kjar

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“Be” Your Best Story

Many times in my line of work, I have the opportunity to help individuals on their own personal stories. I don’t necessarily mean the kind they write down for others to read, but their life purpose; the one that drives them every day, one that makes their life meaningful. “Be Your Best Story” is a phrase I use frequently with my clients. I love this phrase. Within it lies the same process I help organizations to better serve their clients.

Notice it’s not “know your best story” or “write your best story” or even “act out your best story.” The concept of “being” your best story presupposes the need to KNOW & DO.

The process of “becoming” is one of knowing, doing and then being.

KNOWING… Your Screenplay
You must first know what your story is to be. Sometimes it helps if you substitute the word “purpose” for story; they are essentially one in the same. Ask yourself, “what do I want to be remembered for”, or “how do I want to make a difference in the world.” Make certain your purpose makes a difference. Look around you, find a need, and fill it; find a problem, and solve it. Clarify on paper what the final state will be like; use great detail in your description. List out the benefits to others and to yourself, this gives you the leverage needed to make your story happen.

DOING… Act Well Thy Part
Shakespeare once wrote “What E’er Thou Art, Act Well Thy Part.” When you know your plan, your screenplay, it becomes a matter of sticking to your part, and acting it out well. Sometimes it’s harder than others; those are the times you need to “fake it till you make it.” The actions will become more natural and comfortable the more you do it. Remember the first time you drove a stick-shift? It was probably a little rocky at first, then became easier. Now you can probably do it so naturally that you can talk on the phone, drink your coffee and change the radio station all at the same time.

BEING… Becoming
We know that if we can do an action for 3 weeks, it becomes a habit, a more natural part of our everyday actions. In time we become the storied star in our mind’s eye; we become what we consider the most. If we constantly worry about our finances rather than imagining ourselves financially secure, we will become the unhappy pauper we dread. If we constantly stress about our marriage or other important relationships rather than enjoying the time together, we will become the “gloomy Gus” and the heavy anchor of an otherwise promising relationship.

My dear friend, author and speaker Larry Ransom (author of “TAG! You’re It!”), tells how so many people think they must HAVE-DO-BE: “If I can HAVE all I want and need, then I can DO all that I want, and ultimately BE the person I dream of becoming.” Larry says they have it all backward. He says the secret is to BE-DO-HAVE: “I will BE the person I dream of becoming, then that will drive what I DO on a daily basis, so then I can HAVE all that I need and want.” I like that.

So, the choice is simple, “to BE or not to BE.” Go ahead now, “BE Your Best Story.”

Kevan Kjar

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Lennon & Einstein… Experts in Sales?

John Lennon and Albert Einstein may not seem like a likely pair, both were long-hairs, but beyond that the similarities evaporate. However, they both understood the importance of looking for the potential of something, rather than just the current state.

John Lennon wrote “Imagine” in 1971 and sang about a world without war and what it would be like. The song became the anthem of the peace-movement. In the years since, Virgin Records has ranked “Imagine” as the #1 song of all time in 34 consecutive years.

Albert Einstein had a favorite quote that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Simply put we can define knowledge as an awareness of what is, whereas imagination is an awareness of can be.

Imagine the power of being able to get your buyer to picture what your solution can do for them rather than what your product is. That step of imagination is required for all sound purchasing decisions.

It’s no wonder that one of my favorite words in sales conversations is the word IMAGINE. It’s flexibility in use is akin to George Washington Carver’s 300 uses of the peanut. You can use the word IMAGINE to begin a presentation, segue between thoughts, summarize your presentation, or even to deliver your elevator pitch is a few short seconds. GE loved the word so much that they put it to work.

Imagination is also a powerful state of mind. Superstar athletes like Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps spend a lot of time envisioning their winning moves and moments. Successful business people imagine their winning moments, then map out the path to get there. Great parents see the potential in their children and help plant those seeds of greatness in their children’s minds when they ask “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

So, take your next sales tip from two unlikely sales experts, Lennon & Einstein, and imagine yourself doing what you want to see yourself doing; give the subtle suggestion to your buyer to imagine their life with your solution, and tell them how it will be better. Imagine, it’s a powerful thing!

Kevan Kjar

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Carving & Painting… Tools for your Story

Michelangelo was a master artisan because he was a skilled sculptor and painter. His carvings of David and the Pieta were matching only by his ethereal paintings at the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

He was intimidated by the scale of the commission for the Sistine Chapel painting, as he felt he was more of a sculptor than a painter, even though he painted from the time he was a child.

Carving and painting share a common skill of visualization, but approach it very differently. Carving and sculpting is a process of subtraction, taking away. Michelangelo once said, “I just keep carving until I reach the skin.” Painting, on the other hand, is a process of addition, of covering up something with style.

A master sculptor can take a meaningless block of wood or stone and chip it away until it is a beautiful piece of art. Claude Monet could take organic plants and minerals, mix them up with oil, then layer them on canvas to create an impressionist masterpiece of a woman sitting along the Seine river in Paris. Subtraction and Addition, sounds simple, right?

A great story also needs the skills of carving and painting, or subtraction and addition. My experience has shown that sales and marketing people, in trying to sell their products, tend to give too much information… way too much information. They pile on so much paint that you can’t discern what the original painting ever was.

The best way to create and deliver your story is to first “carve” out your message by chipping away all the superfluous and getting down to the skeleton of your story. Once you’ve tested the skeleton and you can see that it will stand on it’s own, and is sound, then “paint” on the elements of your story around that skeleton; it’s how you bring your message to life, turn it from a message to your story.

One of my clients struggled with their message and tried everything they could. Their “painting” never dried before the next trial coat was applied. To say it was smudged and ugly would be kind. We then put their product leadership team together and helped them to “carve” out what their unique selling proposition was; they all agreed that they were all about helping their clients be “free to focus” on their core work, rather than their chore work.

Once they had this skeleton, they could then paint various versions of this skeleton, all saying the same thing. One version was a simple drawing on the back of a napkin showing the impact of more time for the buyer executive; another was a story of better decisions since that aspect of the buyer’s work was being offloaded to experts.

Carving and painting, subtracting and adding; it’s the genesis of good sales messaging and presentations. Oh, you might find it interesting, that as great a sculptor and paint as Michelangelo was, on his deathbed, his final words that he was just beginning to understand the “alphabet of my profession.” Remember that next time you think you got your job down.

Kevan Kjar

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Logos, Pathos, Ethos… Oh My!

For years I’ve known the three key tests of a great (i.e., “persuasive”) message were:
1 – It appeals to the emotion of the audience
2 – It creates differentiation from other options
3 – It has credibility

You can imagine my surprise the other day when I was studying the life of Aristotle, yes, the 300 BC Greek philosopher, student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. In his work Rhetoric, he puts forth that persuasion comes from three combined appeals:
1 – Logos, the appeal to reason
2 – Pathos, the appeal to emotion
3 – Ethos, the appeal of one’s character or credibility

These appeals, as Aristotle terms them, are not independent, but rather woven together. Although there are some we may know that make decisions based predominantly on emotion, or logic or credentials, it is more common to see them working together like three legs of a stool.

Aristotle doesn’t define whether Logos comes first because it happens first, or is most important, that’s just how he listed the three appeals. From my experience, people make decisions in this order:
1 – Pathos: Emotion, “what’s in it for me?”
2 – Logos: Reason, “is this the best way for me to get what I want?”
3 – Ethos: Logic, “will this really work, can I trust them?”

I often use the phrase with my clients, “People buy on emotion and justify with facts.” Think of the last big purchase you made and ask yourself if there was any emotion involved. Once we see something we want, we look for reasons of how to justify it to ourselves. The smart buyer is one that can bridle their emotion and channel it to take action, then use their logic to differentiate the best options, and discern for credibility. We should never neuter emotion from our decisions, it is the fuel that fires change.

If you still don’t believe the maxim that people buy on emotion and justify with facts, do you know any middle-aged man that bought a sports car or motorcycle, or a woman that buys jewelry or clothing? I rest my case.

It’s always nice when you find material that is 2,300 years old that supports a principle you’ve been using most of your professional life. Incidentally, the title of Aristotle’s work, Rhetoric, as defined by Webster is “the art of using language persuasively.”

Kevan Kjar

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