I learned very early on that, to be a rainmaker, you need to do two things –
Sell the Money and Sell the Differences
Selling the Money is usually pretty easy to figure out but Selling the Differences is tough as you risk sounding like everyone else (and often end up doing so).
- We save you time AND money!
- Your ROI will be through the roof!
- Our widget is much faster or more convenient!
- Or my favorite, Our customer service is second to none!
What I have learned is that if you are willing to do the work, you can embark on a journey seemingly so outlandish and exceptional that people may (well, they will actually) call you crazy. However, if you are committed, you can and will find a way to significantly blow away your competition. Many others have already done it.
Here are three examples:
- Happy Lawn figured out how to turn a 5-week estimate creation process into 5 minutes.
- Outback Steakhouse reduced management turnover 10X through an industry leading comp plan.
- Subserveo could bring up a client in one day where competitors took 9-18 months!
How did they do it?
They found their X-factor. This is one or several differences that you are able to find that gives you a 10-100X advantage over your competition. In many cases, it is a process and people combination finding efficiency in internal and external processes and relationships.
Here are four steps to help you figure out your X factor:
Step 1 – Focus Externally
- Scour the last few years of trade show and conference topics for your industry to find out the toughest problems people are trying to solve.
- Read industry journals and periodicals for the same type of information.
- Ask customers (yours and competitors) what frustrates them the most about current offerings.
- Talk to analysts in the industry to see what they are hearing.
- Map the value chain including all the internal players from beginning to end. Include all Industry associations and other players on the periphery.
Step 2 – Focus Internally
- Create another map of all internal processes – Again follow the journey of the dollars/customer/product to identify which processes are the most costly (time and money).
- Ask your team for ideas of where the process is frustrating, long and/or costly.
Step 3 – Build and then narrow the list of possibilities
- Create a team that spends at least an hour or two per week on brainstorming and exploring new ways to address the problem.
- Identify all the areas that you can exploit – open it up to lots of different types of people inside and outside the company. Remember – Some of the most innovative ideas and inventions came from unlikely places – Velcro, White Out, Post-it Notes to name a few. Sometimes being an “expert” is a liability in these types of endeavors.
- Narrow it down to a small number (3-5) that are cross-indexed by impact, time and perceived difficulty.
- Explore the most difficult first, draft some proposed solutions and try to find ways it cannot be done. Fail fast! Be creative and open-minded. Ask questions, test assumptions, discard failed ideas. Move onto the next one.
- Continue to move down the list following the process until you have found one or many ways to do things far better than you and/or anyone else has ever done.
Step 4 – Implement – (a.k.a. Kicking ass and taking names!)
- Without giving away too much, roll it out internally so everyone is on board and any last minute issues are addressed and resolved.
- Roll it out to customers and prospects.
- Get ready for the onslaught because once it gains momentum, it will be hard to catch your breath.
Note of caution – Remember to balance new customer acquisition with existing customer satisfaction and employee health. An efficient process can sometimes crush employee morale and make happy customers less so.
Other things to do
- Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Every 6 months or so confirm it remains a competitive advantage (N.B. Please note that washing hair should happen much more often. I do mine once a month without fail! ;~).
- SUPER IMPORTANT – When you find your X factor, tell as few people as possible and start working on the next X factor right away!
The process is easy to follow but finding the X factor is hard and may take months to years. Also, you may have to figure out what you won’t do in order to deliver on the X factor promise.
However, once you nail it, you will take off like a rocket ship or say Carrie Underwood after American Idol (did I just mix shows?). Few companies have the stomach for it but most companies that take the time to look do find one (or more).
“It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein
This is one of the reasons why there are so few exceptional companies!