In B2B, It’s Dominate or Die
by Chris Beall
B2B companies don’t seem to last long these days for two simple reasons:
- It keeps getting easier, faster, and cheaper to attack incumbents with new offerings — a consequence of Marc Andreeson’s prescient claim that “software is eating the world.”
- The pace of change — technological, cultural and regulatory — turns leading edge solutions into obsolete dogs at an ever faster rate.
The key to survival is market dominance. Why? Because if you can dominate one market segment by becoming the standard for solving an important business problem, you can always size your company’s overhead to match your gross profit from the segment. Business buyers are inherently conservative, which is painful when you are trying to penetrate new markets but a relief once you are a dominant standard. While you will still get attacked by upstarts, the path of least resistance thankfully goes around the dominant player to seek software targets. Your naturally conservative customers will prefer your offerings as the safe bet, and will happily give you (the devil they know) time to adapt to change rather than them having to find and get comfortable with a new solution provider.
Sadly, however, market dominance is easier to hold onto — for a while, anyway — than it is to create. The same conservative customers tend to stick with known solutions, even when faced with better/faster/cheaper alternatives. A B2B buyer is, after all, betting much more than money when they make a purchase decision, especially from a new vendor. They are putting their career on the line. It’s a matter of trust.
In B2B, I must trust you more than I trust myself before I will make a significant buying decision. Given that we start out as strangers, you have a big hill to climb to even sell to me. To dominate a market, you need to build that level of trust with enough people in that market fast enough to sell more than 50% of them on your solution before either a competitor does or before you run out of money. And to be sure, once you sell them, your work has only begun. Each customer you sign up must become so successful using your product that they will act as your salesperson, a reference account that makes it easier and less risky for the next customer to buy exactly the same thing.
Your roadmap to market dominance, therefore, is to build trust across your target market. This is much easier with smaller market segments. So, step one is, unsurprisingly, to define a segment worth dominating. Step two is surprising: have a sincere conversation with everyone in that target segment.
Having Sincere Conversations
Why a sincere conversation? Because that’s the kind that build trust. People are wired to trust someone who shares a similar view of the world (Chris Voss calls this “tactical empathy”) and can solve for them a problem they or their company have right now.
Given that you start out as a stranger, for each relevant person in your target market you must have an unscheduled “cold” conversation before you can have either a scheduled conversation (a meeting) or a second, third, or beyond conversation (a follow-up). This is just math — and seems like very bad news. What could be worse than a “cold” conversation for building trust? It’s an ambush, after all, and it’s hard to imagine a worse way to build trust than to ambush someone.
Here’s the good news. In that ambush itself lies a hidden opportunity to build trust by simply making it clear to the other person that you see yourself as they see you — as an interruption that they hope will go away as quickly and easily as possible; then offering a solution to the problem by trading a little bit of time for the opportunity to tell them why you ambushed them! They may say Yes, or No, or Not Me or (most likely) Not Now, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they trust you a little bit more than they did before you called them. And that trust is the first step in building a relationship that will let you honestly explore whether they really have the problem that you solve and perhaps even have money to spend on such a solution.
The Roadmap to Market Dominance
And that’s the roadmap to market dominance. Build trust across your entire target market segment by having sincere, trust-building cold conversations with everyone who counts. You will need to know the right words to say, and more importantly, you will need to sincerely believe in the value of what you have to offer — which is always the opportunity to learn something useful from an expert. You will need to know how to say those words in a way that lets someone feel, correctly, that you have their best interests at heart and are competent to solve a problem they have. And, given that time is always your enemy in business, you will need to have lots of those conversations before your fiercest competitor has many, or preferably any. But if you do these things, you can blanket a market with trust and — assuming you have the goods to really solve an important problem — turn that trust into business opportunities that pay the bills and generate reference customers so your job keeps getting easier instead of harder.
Now, for the commercial. It turns out that people are hard to get conversations with, whether the first time (cold) or later (follow-up). ConnectAndSell solves that problem by letting you talk to 10x more targeted prospects every day, with zero effort. And 10x is a lot when it comes to doing anything — especially dominating markets. By manufacturing trust 10x faster with the same resources, you simply leave your competition with only one choice: to leave you alone and attack some other market. Of course, by the time they get around to that, you may just decide to apply this cookbook to a second market, and beyond — all with the same simple formula: talk to everyone before your competitor talks to anyone, and build an impenetrable web of trust while they are still figuring out how to take their first step.Tags: Chris Beall