Alternatives: Important Forces in Sales

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The Sales Warrior Within | Season 2 Episode 21 – Alternatives: Important Forces in Sales

Andy Olen is a Sales & Leadership Trainer and High-Performance Coach. Andy works with talented salespeople, business teams, and leaders who seek empowerment, improvement, and insight. Andy’s clients strive to be the best in class.

“Good Selling, Good Leading, Good Living.” – Andy Olen

Alternatives: Important Forces in Sales

  • Alternatives are powerful forces in sales
  • Andy Olen unpacks the pros and cons of alternatives and alternative powers
  • As always, Andy provides real-world examples to bring home the ideas
  • Limit customer alternatives to level the playing field
  • Maximize alternatives as a salesperson when possible

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Speaker: Andy Olen

| 00:02 | There’s a Sales Warrior within each of us. My name is Andy Olen, and I’m here to help you discover and empower the Sales Warrior Within. Hello, Sales Warriors, welcome to the Sales Warrior Within podcast. My name is Andy Olen, your host for the Sales Warrior Within podcast. It’s great to be with you here in the month of June in the year 2022.
| 00:28 | I’m excited because my youngest son just graduated or was, quote, promoted out of 8th grade. So now all three kids, next year, next school year just a couple of months away, will be in high school together at Brookfield East High School in Brookfield, Wisconsin. A senior, a junior and a freshman, has been one of those milestone moments where I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and knowing that at some point they’re all going to be back in school together. Well, that time has come, and it’s exciting. It’s a fun age to have a 17 year old and a 16 year old and a soon to be 14 year old.
| 01:00 | So off they go. And speaking of fun topics to talk about and fun things to be around, salespeople. And of course, I love the nobility of sales. I love working with all of you. I love when sales people discover the Sales Warrior Within. What I’d like to do today is talk about something that’s a really powerful force within our sales community, and that is the power of alternatives. So alternatives are really both to the advantage and possibly at times to the disadvantage of the salesperson.
| 01:33 | So let’s talk about this a little bit. Let me put it into a personal example. I was talking about my kids. My oldest daughter, Ainsley, is starting her College search this summer. So we’ve already looked at a couple of schools in the Chicago area. She and I are going to go out to the East Coast, and we’re going to look at some, wellknown schools. We’re going to take a look at Brown and Providence. We’re going to look at Harvard, of course, in Massachusetts, and we’re going to start the trip in New York City looking at Columbia and NYU. I think we’ll also make a stop in New Haven.
| 02:03 | At Yale, Inslee is shooting for some of the big Ivy League schools. Wisconsin is my alma mater and is there as well for her. What’s important in the search when you’re looking at a bunch of really elite schools where 20, 00:30, 40,000 kids apply and maybe five, 6% most get in, you got to have a lot of alternatives. And it’s important that you spread your bets out across a lot of different opportunities and universities.
| 02:31 | So if you just put all your eggs in one basket and say, I’m only going to apply to Harvard, and that’s my only choice and you have no other alternatives, if Harvard says no to you, you have nothing, you might be hurrying to apply late to another College or University. So if you’re looking at big schools like AANS is looking at, you got to spread your bets around and you got to also be ready that your alternative could be the wonderful University of Wisconsin as well. My daughter Audrey simultaneously is going to start her recruiting process for swimming.
| 03:03 | Now, Audrey is a year behind Ansley in school, but the recruiting window for swimmers and perspective NCAA athletes opens up in June of this year. So just in about a week, actually less than a week from now. And what I was telling her is that she definitely has a couple of schools that she’s interested in. We don’t have any idea yet if they are interested in her. We have to wait to see if she gets a call if she’s going to be recruited by them.
| 03:30 | And I told her, I said there might be some schools that give you a call where it may not be your 1st, second or even your 10th choice. But keep them in the mix. Allow them to be one of multiple alternatives for you, because if you have many options to choose from, you might be perceived or recognized as being a really valuable swimmer. That your top choices. They better pay attention to you. And I told her, I said, if a College asks you, are you talking to anyone else?
| 03:59 | And you say, no, no one has reached out, I have no other alternatives. Well, maybe you don’t look quite as good in the eyes of that College that you’re interested in. Or Conversely, if they ask you, hey, have you been talking to other schools? And you say, yeah, I got ten or twelve alternatives that I’m looking at right now. Then all of a sudden the competition likely ramps up. That’s an example in personalized something I’m going through right now where alternatives are required for my oldest daughter, Ainsley you need to put a lot of shots on goal.
| 04:28 | You need to have alternatives because you’re applying to really good schools. For my daughter Audrey, if she is fortunate enough to get recruited by a lot of schools, maintain those alternatives and it might make you look like you have more value. So let’s transition that idea of alternatives over to the salesperson. Let’s look at it this way first. For a salesperson, if you are working in a territory or if you run your own business and you have only one customer, that means you have all your eggs in that basket.
| 04:59 | And that might be good, that might be fruitful, it might be very rewarding. But if something happens to that one customer and you have nothing else, if you have no other alternatives, you might run out of sales really quickly. You might run out of compensation opportunities, you might run out of time if you are expected to deliver a quota for yourself and for an organization. So in sales, you want to have a lot of different alternatives that’s why we go through prospecting. It’s why we build a funnel.
| 05:28 | It’s why you use a flywheel. It’s why you want to diversify your business across multiple customers. For me, I tend to, as I’ve shared with you before, have about four or five, six companies that make up a bulk of my business to business engagement, sales training, leadership development programs, executive coaching, whatever it may be. But at least I have four or five. I’m not single threaded through one. Could I be single threaded through one?
| 05:57 | Probably, but I might as well just go work for them as a full time employee and get all the benefits if that’s the way that I’m going to run things. So as a salesperson, it’s important to have alternatives. If you are a customer, let’s flip the script around a little bit and you’re looking to find the best deal. If you’re a customer working with salespeople, if you engage a salesperson and say, hey, I’m looking at five different solutions, I have you and I have four other alternatives that give the customer a lot of power.
| 06:28 | And in my latest negotiation class, Power Dynamics, that is available at https://andyolen.com/yes-if-negotiations/  I go into negotiation powers. And one of the big powers out there is customer alternative power. Think about it this way. If you are monopolist, if you have a product that nobody else has and they’re very few of those, those are unicorns, and quite frankly, they’re illegal. The government’s going to, at least in the United States, is going to shut that down pretty quickly.
| 06:57 | But if you are a product of one and it’s in high demand, there are no other alternatives, and that customer has to buy from you. I always think of the closest thing to a monopoly is going, for example, to a sporting event or to a movie, unless you’re smuggling in your own beer, wine, drinks, popcorn, hot dogs, bratwurst, polar sausage, whatever it may be, as referencing, of course, what you’d be eating at the baseball field here in Milwaukee that you have no other alternative but to buy from the vendors at the Stadium.
| 07:35 | And that’s why prices for a beer are $15. That’s why a hot dog costs $1250. It’s expensive because in essence, you’re limited in your alternatives. You only have the vendors there. You have one single alternative. That vendor knows it and then brings the price up for all the customers within that venue. If you go to a very popular restaurant area, you’re going to have all kinds of different alternatives to choose from. That puts the power back in the customer’s hand to say, oh, I could go to this restaurant on this side of the street, or I can go to the one over there.
| 08:08 | And those two restaurants have to compete against each other. So your customers, as often as they can, are going to be looking for ways to create alternative power for themselves or if they’re running a request for proposal and RFP or a contracting process. It would be smart for them to have three, four or five vendors all competing for the business as long as they can. As long as your customers have alternatives, they have power. And it’s up to you as a salesperson to limit their alternatives.
| 08:40 | You want to become vendor of choice as soon as possible. You want to try to narrow the field from five down to two, and that starts to level the playing field. That’s very, very important to think about. So you can now see alternatives are very important. There’s another really big alternative for salespeople. If you have multiple products in your bag, many SKUs, many different things you can sell, then you have many different alternatives that you can share and put in front of a customer.
| 09:10 | And I always think about salespeople who are part of big companies that have a ton of products to sell. That’s a great advantage for you because you can create all kinds of alternative or different solutions for your customer. Oh, you’re looking at product A if you’re not interested in product A, product B and product C are similar to that. And we can still add in product de and F to the equation or to the solution companies or salespeople rather that only have one single product.
| 09:40 | They don’t have any other alternatives. Either sell that product or you don’t. Sometimes that’s okay if there’s not a lot of competition. But I always like and I’ve always enjoyed working in an environment where I can sell with many different alternatives. And I find when I get to the negotiation, if I have a lot of different products to sell, that gives me that wonderful power to bring forward alternatives and trade those back and forth, trading value for value through yes, if and I think back to my trading sheet that if a customer asked me for a discount on something, yes, I’ll give you a discount on product A.
| 10:12 | If you’re also willing to add product B to the contract with multiple product alternatives, it allows me to have many shots on goal and gives me a lot of empowerment during the sales and negotiation process. So we’ve talked a lot today for ten minutes or so now on the advantages that you can grab with alternatives, especially if you work with many different products, many different services, or if you have a lot of different partners within your organization selling different ideas and solutions and products themselves, put it together, work with them, create alternatives that is going to give you the best chance to succeed.
| 10:50 | Also, watch out for customers aggregating alternative power that they can try to use to their advantage. If they’re keeping a lot of vendors around throughout the sales process that you’re involved with, they’re absolutely looking to maintain alternative power. Your job is then to limit that alternative power. Get to a point where your vendor of choice get to a point where you can take the field from five down to two that’s going to level the playing field. So think a lot about alternatives.
| 11:19 | How do you maximize yours? How do you limit your customers alternatives when they’re thinking about who to go with and how do you play the alternative game in sales? Well, I gave you a couple of ways to think about that and I want you to continue to drill deeper into the power of alternatives think about the power of alternatives in your personal life. Certainly as consumers ourselves we’re going to go out there and look for the best deal. I always do that when I go and buy a car. I have a lot of brands I can choose from that gives me a lot of alternative power.
| 11:51 | And even when I choose a brand that I like if there are multiple dealers in the Milwaukee area I have alternatives on where to go to buy that brand and if I’m not getting the best deal I can play those alternatives off one another. So alternatives are around us as consumers, as humans and also as salespeople and customers. So make sure let’s watch for the opportunity to harness alternative power and the opportunity to ensure that our customers don’t take advantage of our great salespersonship by using an extending alternative power of their own.
| 12:28 | So there you go team. I hope you have a great week I hope you have a great weekend and I hope you have a great close to the third quarter. If this is your calendar quarter excuse me the second quarter I was getting ahead of myself. My goodness. Great close to the second quarter of 2022 times. Moving fast. Good news. It’s not moving that fast. Anyway. My name is Andy Olen. Thanks for tuning into the sales warrior within podcast as always, good selling, good leading and good living.