Strategery. 3 Ways to Implement Strategy from Sun Tzu’s Art of War

I’m a big fan of The Art of War by Sun Tzu – specifically I think implementing these principles in software selling significantly increases your chance for big money.  There have been hundreds of blogs and books on this topic, but I wanted to write a few practical plays that directly relate to the field of software selling.

  1. Waging War. I often see that reps never saw a deal they didn’t’ like.  If Sun Tzu hawked code, he would be known as the guy who never saw a deal he liked.  Choose to wage war carefully, as it always ends in a victory and a loss…with many lost lives along the way.

Sun Tzu said, “Now in order to kill the enemy, our men must be roused to anger; that there may be advantage from defeating the enemy, they must have their rewards.”

SoftwareSalesBlog Translation:  In order to win the deal, you have to find the thing that the executive you’re selling to is really passionate about.  Sellers 99% of the time get fixated on their reward vs. the enemy’s (aka. The executive buyer).  Sellers want to talk about price, produce, value, differentiation, etc.  While you’re passionate about those things, it’s rarely the reward of your buyer.  Your buyer cares about 3 things:  promotion, bonus, or recognition.  Appeal to these, and you will have an advantage.

  1. The Use of Spies. Reps too often get focused on building a few key relationships, and victory is won or lost based on how well they guessed up front.  Sun Tzu said the importance of many different kinds of spies is priceless.

Sun Tzu said, “Spies are a most important element in water, because on them depends an army’s ability to move.”

SofwareSalesBlog Translation:  When in a deal, using many different people to give you information is critical to outline the over-all strategy and approach to differentiation.  Too many reps formulate their win-themes before engaging various people (ie spies).  Spies can be for you, your competition, or neutral.  Your job is to collect their perception of you and your competition, and from there you’ll be in better position to proclaim your differentiation.

  1. When you let executives dictate the steps by which software is evaluated, you are likely going to be out-maneuvered.  Sun Tzu was a fan of controlling the battles that he fought, as if he couldn’t control it, he knew he would likely lose.

Sun Tzu said, “We shall be unable to turn natural advantage to account unless we make use of local guides.”

SoftwareSalesBlog Translation:  If someone isn’t telling you you’re winning, you’re losing.  A rep’s ability to find and develop a coach (or multiple coaches) is priceless.  If someone isn’t guiding you, it not only removes your advantage, but likely immediately puts you at a disadvantage.  I never won a deal in my career where someone didn’t tell me I was winning.  On the flip side, I’ve lost several where I was unable to get a coach formed or developed enough to mentor me through her org.

Implement Sun Tzu’s tactics and you’ll win more business!  Follow my page as we have many more great topics coming in the future!

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