I have visited more than 100 of the leading HVAC-R and building system manufacturers across the U.S. and discussed with them what their competitive advantages are. You know what they all say?
- “Our competition only offers standard products. We will accommodate custom solutions or “special requests.” We never tell a customer “no.”
- “We manufacture the highest quality.” Everyone says they are the Mercedes of their industry.
- “Our products are made in the U.S.A.”
You know what none of them say? “Our selling process.”
I challenge you to make your selling process one of your competitive advantages!
Examples of Selling Process as Competitive Advantage
Dell is an example of a company we are all familiar that has stolen massive amounts of market share from Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, Gateway, Best Buy and Circuit City. It didn’t do it by building a “better” computer or a “cheaper” computer. It did it by selling smarter, selling differently, selling faster… by making its selling process its #1 competitive advantage.
Another example you may be less aware of is Schneider Electric’s Division, American Power Conversion (APC). Gartner performed a study where they asked the top vendors in the product configuration space to give their best reference. Cincom chose APC to represent our Acquire technology. The result of Gartner’s analysis was that of all the companies they looked at, the only company who had truly transformed their selling process into a competitive advantage was APC, a Cincom customer.
A product configurator alone does not make your selling process one of your competitive advantages.
Most product configurators fall short in several areas:
1. Most configurators offer an “out-of-the-box” user interface that limits the user’s experience. How can your selling process be your competitive advantage if your configurator uses the same user interface as a business entirely different from yours?
2. Most configurators have very limited integration capabilities. Too many businesses are required to manually enter orders and keep duplicate records of data. You shouldn’t have to maintain your pricing in your configurator AND in your ERP. You shouldn’t have to enter the order into your configurator and your CRM. This should all happen immediately and automatically.
3. Most configurators provide TABULAR or IF-THEN editors to create “rules” and you have to be a computer programmer to maintain them. Cincom provides graphical rules that make it easy for business users (not IT) to create and maintain the knowledge. I have examples of businesses whose rules are so difficult to write, 60% of their products are not in the product configurator.
4. Most product configurators do just that, configure products. The sales representative still risks configuring a product for the customer that is more or less than what the customer truly needs. The sales rep is still required to be an expert not only on all product configurations but also all possible applications. In the HVAC-R industry where entire systems are being configured, this is not practical. Cincom’s technology is a “solution configurator” that allows users to plug in their requirements and the knowledge in the software will generate the “solution” that is perfect for the customer’s application. A “Solution Configurator” is how you take the “guesswork” out of selling and the only way you, and more importantly, your customer can be sure they are investing in the solution that is perfect for their application.
5. Special requests throw even the best configurators a curveball. Guide the customer toward a solution that you know is pre-engineered, flows seamlessly through your manufacturing facility and is most cost efficient for both of you. If they still require a special request, using Cincom Acquire technology you can look up past special requests to see if it has been done before. If it has not, use knowledge to at least quote the special request in real time and wait to engineer the special request after the business is won.
Bottom line: If you’re offering highly-specialized custom products, like HVAC-R and building system manufacturers, you should evaluate how you can turn your sales process into a competitive advantage. It can lower sales costs, allow you to scale products faster into channels, and provide faster responses to customers.
To learn more about how guided selling and product configuration can increase your advantage in the HVAC-R industry, get a personalized demo.