At the start of my sales career I worked at a boutique investment company. During our onboarding, we went through an extensive product positioning course. The trainer stood before the room. “We are volatility managers. We don’t manage money, we manage risk.”

 

I memorized the talk track; it made sense. Then I paid attention to the investment ads during the U.S. Open that weekend. “Manage risk” and “Reduce volatility” were narrated and pasted across my screen in big block letters. Every company sounded like ours. We had a product positioning problem.

 

Take a few minutes to assess your product positioning by leveraging SBI’s How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook. Turn to the Product Strategy section and flip to page 137 to ask your self the workbook questions to assess your positioning against emerging best practices.

 

Many companies are on track to miss their number. Shortsighted CEOs immediately assumed this is a sales execution issue. They plan to reprimand the sales leader and move on. But better CEOs investigated the root cause. One of the core reasons why many companies miss their number is that they have poor product positioning.

 

How do you determine whether your product positioning needs an overhaul? Get outside of your company. Begin your investigation with the following three core techniques.

 

Win-loss interviews. Identify key wins and losses throughout the year. Set up time to speak with the key economic buyers and technical evaluation. Ask them how they decided on the final solution. Have them outline the benefits and drawbacks of each solution. Red flags: “We bought on price.” “They looked the same.” “It seemed a lot like the legacy solution.”

 

Prospect-customer surveys. Create a list of candidates. Offer a substantial carrot for their participation. Then create a survey that asks core questions about your product and its competition in the same space. Some topics: Is your product perceived as different? Do the unique features or benefits of your solution actually matter to target customers? Are competitors fast following your unique solutions?

 

Mystery shops. Go to your competitions’ websites. Click through their product page and see how they are positioning it. Is the message the same? If not, what are they communicating? Now fill out a form and engage with their business development team. Tell them you are looking at several competitors and ask what the difference is. Strong product positioning takes time, but generates results. If your product sounds the same, or pitches features that don’t matter, you’ll compete on price. Invest the time. Create a message that is differentiated and relevant.

 

Here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate your Product Strategy against SBI’s emerging best practices to find out if:

 

  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job

     

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Drew Zarges

Helps small business owners overcome their biggest sales and marketing challenges to accelerate revenue growth.

Prior to joining SBI in 2011, Drew worked in the intermediary investment sales world. During that time, he worked his way up the ladder from client service representative to leading and coaching his former company’s sales team on the west coast. At SBI, Drew has served some of the company’s most prestigious accounts as a consultant. For these clients, he successfully executed everything from sales process and lead generation projects to highly technical account segmentation work. He now serves as the General Manager of SBI OnDemand, a unit dedicated to applying the firm’s battle tested concepts and projects to the small business community.

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