Friday, August 3, 2007

The Legend of the Purple Squirrel

Part 1

The argument can be made that in the majority of "deals" the winning vendor typically offers either A) the lowest price B) a unique, relevant solution to a pressing problem or C) a combination of both.

Not Really a Legend, the Story of the Purple Squirrel is centered on my team's efforts to create a unique, humorous, yet effective means in which to relay to a prospective client the value of our solution. To be honest it was the summer and my team had grown weary, some would say bored, with our own sales pitch. While it was true we were top grossing team in North America, we were starting to lose the "excited tone" in our presentations and we needed a change. Add to the mix that a newly found prospect, and their disorganized evaluation process somewhat pissed us off, we felt we had the opportunity to stretch outside our comfort zone a bit and doing something fun.

Before we go to much further, lets talk about what it takes to pull off a successful Purple Squirrel maneuver. First you need confidence in your solution and yourself (or your team). Next you need a combination of "uniqueness" AND relevancy. Every viable competitor offers a relevant solution to a varying degree so being one of those "who get it" is usually not enough. In addition being really unique, without being relevant, well, that just makes you a weirdo.

And there are limits to being creative and one should not throw common sense out the window when trying to think outside the box.

We came across an illustration of this a few years ago. My team was competing for the business of a Midwestern media company. We had made it through the preliminary stages of the evaluation and were invited in for the first of many onsite presentations. As we walked into the conference room and started to setup our equipment, the members of the evaluation team filed in. While not quite apparent at first, we eventually noticed a brand new pair of white tube socks sitting in the middle of the table. The tags where still on them. When asked, the head of the evaluation committee gave this amused look and said "Oh, those are from the last presentation *snicker*".

One of our competitors was a start-up. Brand new, without an established customer base or adequate resources, they tried to compensate for their organizational deficiencies with "scrappiness". When you're scrappy you try stuff.

Scrappy Plan A - send almost the entire company to the meeting.
I do not know why Senior Executives think this is a great idea, but, The President, Senior Vice President, Vice President of Sales, Vice President of Development, The Sales Rep, and Finally the Sale Engineer attended the first meeting. Everyone was eager (and scrappy), all wore dark suits, and all were there to make the commitment to the prospect that they were going to make them the best customer ,etc. And yes, the next release would satisfy all of their needs, professional, personal, and even sexual if need be.

Scrappy Plan B - start off with a bang.
So the socks. Im sure this sounded really good on the car ride over, but after the introductions were exchanged, the meeting started with the Sales Rep lobbing the new pair of the aforementioned socks on the table and proclaiming to the room "You are going to need these.....because what Im about to show you will.....(you see where this is going don't you?).......knock your socks off!!!!


Scrappy Plan C - when asked a question, be scrappy

"So what happens if I have a problem after you close?" Our company - Our London Office handles our after-hours support, we forward our 800 support line to them at night.

Scrappy Company - You wont have any problems.

Needless to say, startup company didnt make the cut. Im assuming that the Sale Rep expensed the socks.


No comments: