Now before I start, I should say that I’ve just returned from an amazing holiday in Istanbul. I should point out that Turkey is a great place, people lovely, food lovely and the sites are just amazing so please don’t take this the wrong way, it is a Metaphor for a restaurants across a number of countries and cities. I’ve travelled (and done business) in Greece, Turkey, Spain, Ibiza and even in parts of my home city, London. But there is also a stereotype restaurant that you see in all of these places, but times are a changing.
This stereotype is a grouping of restaurants that have little to differentiate themselves, the menus and prices are pretty much the same. Over time, the decor is pretty much the same. So they put a “salesperson” out the front to attract people in.
Of course, the sales people say the same things, probably as they have been on the same training. In Graham Hawkins’ book “Sales Transformation: Is now critical for IT vendors” he tells the story of how some buyers he worked with, used to joke after the salesperson’s pitch “that was a spin salesperson” or “that was a Miller Heiman salesperson”. Or the salesperson I knew who told me they had worked for Oracle, Siebel, SAP and Salesforce and never changed the company presentation. Just the logos on the deck, same presentation, different company.
Anyway back to my Restaurant metaphor.
While I was sitting at my table eating, what was an excellent meal we got talking to the owner (as you always do) it’s critical for him to build rapport so you come back.
It would seem the customer is changing. No longer can they throw salespeople onto the street and hope they will get buyers. You see, we decided we didn’t want to leave things to chance and had researched the restaurant on the internet, before we flew out and in fact very few restaurants had turned up in our search. Surprised us too in the internet age.
The owner was “younger” the others and he told us he had spent money on SEO (search engine optimisation) and third party reviews. He admitted many of the reviews were astroturf and so wanted our legitimate review to add to the fakes. But here was a restaurant owner who had clearly spotted the change in buying patterns and the fact he couldn’t leave his revenue to the execution ability of his salespeople to passing trade.
The interesting thing was this owner had recognised that people today buy differently, by going on-line. More importantly he realised that his restaurant was actually the same as all the others. Same product, same price, same messaging, same Salesforce and what he needed was a competitive advantage. He got this by finding, buyers before anybody else. As in our case, we found him before the other restaurants. In fact we found his restaurant before leaving Heathrow.
I’m sure you are thinking, this isn’t revolutionary. Of course every restaurant owner knows they are the “same” and they are do something about it. Don’t they?
It seemed to us that a street in Istanbul was “just” a sales funnel, you needed more and more customers to walk down it and throw your salespeople at. In fact, we actually avoided some roads as the restaurant salespeople got overly aggressive. Again, this isn’t just in Turkey, I’ve also seen it in Brick Lane in London.
Why Being the Same Isn’t a Competitive Advantage
We see so many companies that are the same. Same website, same messages, battling for the attention of the same people. I think that often we get caught in the fact that we are the best and of course our customers will see this. The the same as i will come upon your restaurant and be amazed.
So what of our Restaurant owner?
He had circumvented his competitor’s salespeople and stores. He had also moved up the buying process from sales funnel to even before somebody had got on a flight. Why not take this to the next stage?
We did after all search for content. “The top 10 things to do in Istanbul” for example. With this the restaurant owner could side step the buying process. Or better still getting “intent data” where people start their buying process. Either way, there are ways and means for restaurant owners, software companies, manufacturing companies, agriculture companies, you name it, leap frogging your competitors can mean massive benefits in terms of revenue and competitive advantage.
Of course you can leave your current sales and marketing plan to be the same as everybody else and hope some lost tourist randomly appears in your restaurants street and your salespeople execute to plan.
Or, of course, hope was never a strategy.
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