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Fighting the “Safe-Choice Phantom”

Fighting the “Safe-Choice Phantom”

There have been a rash of sightings recently of the “Safe-Choice Phantom” in and about the greater sales universe.

The Safe-Choice Phantom is a specter summoned by big companies when they are selling against smaller companies and have little value to bring other than their brand name. If you are a smaller company in your market, you often are competing against this ghost — the idea that the safe choice is the right choice.

The best part of fighting the Safe-Choice Phantom is that safety is a minimum standard measurement. If you can appear “safe enough” then you can win on your compelling value.

Recently, I had a couple of business owners in my office who had discovered that their largest competitor quantified its number one reason for winning contracts, over a third of all deals, from being the “safe choice.” That was it. That competitor wasn’t better, cheaper, faster or smarter. Just safer.

As entrepreneurs, we find this hard to stomach. We create advantages, best-in-class performance, tailored solutions and benefits. To be beat out for the reason that “bigger is safer” is intellectually offensive. This phantom has to be crushed in every corner of the sales process that it is found. Otherwise, smaller companies risk permanent second-position status in larger sales opportunities.

Here are some strategies and techniques to use in fighting the phantom:

1) Ratio risk – Challenge your prospect to consider where they want to be on the priority ladder of their provider. As the 11th biggest customer of a big company, your prospect would receive very different attention than that prospect will receive as a top 5 customer of yours. The question is simple, “Who wants to be someone’s 11th biggest customer?”

2) Strong – Bring your strength to the conversation early and often — not just your value. Take your best people, case studies, and clients into the early parts of the sales process that show your strength and stability. The Safe-Choice Phantom wins because of strength, stability and defendability as a decision. Be stronger.

3) 4 key safety flags – If safety is the operative term, then what can you include in your sales conversations, presentations and proposals that will convey safety?

– People – Demonstrate a sense of scale, interplay and uniquely relevant resume experience to your prospects. It’s true — people buy from people. However, even more true is that people connect to safety with other people they see as peers, not sales people.

– Process – Illustrating directly the processes that you follow to achieve results gives the confidence of predictability and scalability that decision makers need to feel safe.

– Technology – One of the concerns of larger buyers when considering a smaller firm is that of scalability – “Does this little company have the resources necessary to grow and flex for my needs?” Your leverage of equipment, systems, software and platforms generates confidence that you can ramp up through technology rather than only by hiring, which carries many inherent risks.

– Experience – Your bona fides in the prospect’s problems first, market second and industry third give them an anchoring reference point in defending the decision to go with the smaller company. You need to bring these to the discussion and hammer home the direct application on all three levels.

Know that the phantom is always lurking in the decision-making shadows of every big sale. Use these strategies to beat him.



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