Tuesday Aug 06, 2013

Is the Best Product Enough to Win?

I suspect a lot of us would like to think so. The best product, best team, best person should win, right? Unfortunately, a Pulitzer Prize winning article in the Washington Post indicates that’s not always be the case.

Joshua Bell is one of the world’s greatest violinists. He once played “six of the most elegant songs ever written” in a busy DC metro station on one of the world’s most expensive violins. How many people paused to appreciate his virtuoso performance?

7.

Anita Elberse, a Harvard Business School professor, uses the story to illustrate the importance of getting people’s attention in the crowded marketplace of ideas. In short, the experiment indicates having a great product isn't enough.

I couldn’t help but contrast these results with the emphasis we place on the demo and having the “best product”.  While I’m not saying demo prep and product presentation aren’t important—we aren’t likely to win without them—they’re probably not enough to win.

Of course, good sales people will aver “People buy from people!” underlining the importance of relationships.  While that’s certainly true, it’s not exactly a trade secret. (I suspect prehistoric fur traders who people liked did more business than jerks).  We know strong competitors do the same thing—emphasize great product and build strong relationships—so how do we expect to stand out if we only do the same? Why should a customer buy from Oracle and not someone else?

While the reasons can be different in every deal—integrated stack, OBAs, partner ecosystem, BPO et al—if we allow the decision to be solely based on the ERP product and relationships, we’re not only missing our chance to stand out but we’re exposing the deal to forces we can’t control (e.g. the sales rep and buyer are members of the same cycling club).

It might help our win rate if we thought of Mr. Bell slowly, sadly stroking his precious Stradivarius as commuters whisked by nary sharing a glance. 

Sometimes the best product simply isn’t enough.

(by Dave Loesch, Oracle)

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