A Tale of Two Sales Teams – Cogswell Cogs vs. Spacely Sprockets

 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..

Cogswell vs Spacely

 

Cogswell Cogs and Specely Sprockets sell the exact same product, from the customers stand point that is.  Both are very high-tech companies, with impressive client lists, and make sizable investments in R & D and marketing. There is a healthy debate as to which one is higher on the Fortune 500 list. Both Cogswell Cogs and Spacely Sprockets claim they were first to market with a “Software as a Service” widget.  They have the exact same spot on Gartner’s magic quadrant and charge the same monthly amount for this widget.

Over the past 6 months, Cogswell Cogs has been killing Spacely Sprockets with the new SaaS widget selling 10 new units to their rival’s 1. The analysts have been quizzing the leadership at Cogswell – without any clear advantage in industry experience, pricing, technology, or fiscal stability, how can they explain such a discrepancy in sales?

6 months ago, the leadership at Cogswell examined their sales forecast and saw an alarming trend. Half of their forecasted deals were either lost to Spacely Sprockets or to no decision.  These were deals on the forecast.  The leadership decided that this trend that was no longer sustainable – they were a 6 sigma shop after all.  They decided they were going to start with the end in mind and uncover why a forecasted deal would ever fail to close.

Their research showed that when Cogswell Gogs lost a forecasted deal, it was due to one of or all of these three factors:

  1. The buyers couldn’t tell the difference between the two vendors, so they selected Spacely Sprockets for reasons having nothing to do with feature, financials, experience, or price.
  2. The buyers couldn’t justify the costs, so they didn’t make any purchase
  3. The buyers couldn’t come to a consensus on who to purchase, so an individual they hadn’t spoken to made the decision.

As a result Cogswell Cogs deployed a strategy to combat these three factors:

Competitive Strategy: Cogswell Cogs would make it a focus to find a point of competitive differentiation where none had existed before: the sales force.  The individual sales person would take a much more proactive role in the sales process.  They were held responsible for understanding the pains of every potential stakeholder impacted by their solution and linking specific benefits to solving those pains.

Closing Strategy: Cogswell Cogs made a point of withholding the proposal until they had collaborated with the prospect to build a business case for the widget. Also, no opportunity would make it on the forecast without first an understanding of the source of urgency, or a date when they could no longer go without the widget.

Political Strategy: Cogswell Cogs would make it a point to speak to every potential stakeholder, particularly the C-suite, and sell to them in a language they would understand: risk. The higher a sales person finds themselves in the org chart – the more a potential stakeholder has to lose (or gain)

Spacely Sprockets on the other hand hasn’t really changed how they sell.  They are more reactive in their sales process and cling to the operational stakeholders like a drowning person does a life preserver.  Their discovery process is focused on break / fix with no discussion on impact. The demo of the SaaS widget is the same canned presentation they have been doing for years.  Pricing is handed out without cost justification.  When the proposal was handed to the prospect an inevitable dead period would follow.

Six months ago, Spacely was winning about half of their deals. Now the dead period stays dead.

Cogswell Cogs has found a way to create competitive advantage where none had existed before – the sales force.

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