Strategy is one of the most frequent words in business and the meaning of it is the subject of a long time debate among business scholars. In the broadest context of business, strategy essentially means making decisions about how a business intends to gain competitive advantage in its markets. Simply put, strategy is about how you intend to win.
With the increased competition in the market, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate yourself with your unique products or services. Given the speed with which new products and services come to market today, competitive advantage gained though uniqueness usually does not last for long. However, you can differentiate yourself by how you behave with customers. In other words, you can differentiate yourself not by what you sell but by how you sell.
There is very limited interest in products as products. If you talk about your product’s features and functions, you will lose credibility fast. In fact, many executives simply terminate the meeting when the salesperson starts delivering a product pitch. What executives are interested in is learning how your offering can have a beneficial effect on an issue of importance to them. Many of these issues concern strategy. To make this link between your offering and the client’s strategic issue, you obviously have to understand the client’s strategy. You have to sit in the CEO’s chair, as it were, and see things the way the CEO might.
There are real and important advantages for you investing the time and effort to gain this understanding. When you know your client’s business strategies, you can:
- Focus on topics of real concern to executives. Your ability to talk strategy immediately makes what you have to say relevant to senior-level people.
- Conduct the conversation with increased confidence. This ability should also increase your confidence that the conversation will go well—both before it begins and during it.
- Link your offerings to strategic initiatives. The heart of how you talk strategy is explaining how your offerings will in some way contribute to the success of the strategy.
- Use value-creation language. As you link your offerings to strategic initiatives, it will be natural for you to use the language of value creation rather than the language of products and services
- Be viewed as a trusted business advisor. Using value-creation language will help you be perceived as a trusted business advisor rather than as salesperson out to sell a product.
- Differentiate yourself from your competitors. When you conduct conversations with a strategic focus, you will clearly and powerfully differentiate yourself from your competitors, most of whom will not have prepared themselves as you have. In short, talking strategy gives you a competitive advantage.