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Common job issues and solutions in Sales

Market Share: Getting (and Keeping) Your Piece of the Pie


{#/pub/images/marketshare.jpg}For any type of product in any given market area, there’s a limit to how much business there is to go around. That total number is the “whole pie.” It’s determined by the buyers in your market area, by the demand for the product you sell. 


Let’s say you sell haircuts. You and every other salon, barber shop and beauty parlor in your zip code are competing for the limited number of customers who will get haircuts each week. That number of total haircuts represents the whole pie.


The whole pie is only so big. You won’t be able to convince people to get more haircuts than they need. You won’t be able to draw many people from outside your area because they have plenty of choices for the same service closer to home. The whole pie is finite. 


What you’ll have to do instead if you want to get and keep a piece of the pie is lure people away from the competitors who are you neighbors. When entering a new market, you’ll be eroding someone else’s share of the pie in order to get a big enough piece of the pie to make a profit in your business. 


How can you get (and keep) your piece of the pie? Tactics vary from one industry to another and from one company to another and even from one seller to another. You can seize the opportunities where competitors have dissatisfied customers or other vulnerabilities. You can discount prices to lure buyers to your business. You can aggressively market to build top-of-mind awareness that causes people to think of you first when they are ready to buy.


All of these tactics have one thing in common. They will convey something about your business and its brand or image in the marketplace. The same is true for sellers – you have a brand or image that you are creating every time you choose a sales tactic. In other words, getting and keeping your piece of the pie has some long-term implications, too, regarding how you will be viewed by buyers.


Being mindful of image and brand is important when faced with stiff competition. As the economy slowly improves, many industries are seeing the overall pie grow for sales in the markets. At the same time, emboldened by these same economic improvements, new competitors may be entering into your space and looking for a piece of the same pie. 


What will you do when faced with new competition? Or with the same old competition who is trying to take advantage of the growing pie? How will you respond so that you remain competitive without compromising your brand or image?


Taking the High Road Requires a Longer-Term Perspective


One popular approach to staying competitive is to “take the high road.” In common parlance, that means you will do the right thing:

  • You will act with integrity and rise above the reputation-smearing others might indulge in. 

  • You will not stoop to getting involved in unfair pricing practices. 

  • You won’t strong arm your customers to pressure them to set up exclusive and restrictive deals with you. 


Taking the high road originates from the way roads were built before modern transportation and bridges. The low road was faster but would take you through creeks and ponds. You would get dirty on the low road. The high road went up through the hills. Your journey would be longer, but you would stay clean. The road you selected would reflect your priorities and determine how you’d arrive at your destination – fast vs. clean.   


From a strategic point of view, thinking long-term and big-picture, it’s easy to say you should always take the high road. That’s noble, professional and admirable. 


But is it realistic? When you are losing sales and losing market share (your pie is shrinking), can you be expected to stay on the high road? When your commission dollars are drying up thanks to a new competitor, is it okay to continue a long, lonely journey on the high road? What do you when your sales manager says “take the high road” AND “go get some business back?” 


Many a seller has detoured to the low road.  Some found and regained their piece of the pie there. Fewer kept that piece of the pie for the long-term. The price these sellers paid in damaged brands and images was hefty. That’s because you always get dirty on the low road.


One of the sellers I hired just after he graduated college chose the low road 15 years into a successful career. Despite the money he’d made, the promotions he’d earned and the fine reputation he’d built, this seller got impatient. He wanted something more, and he wanted it fast. He let that cloud his judgment. At first, the low road he took felt great – it was an easy passage with clear sight to the goal, no hills to climb and no roundabout directions to navigate.


When he arrived at his destination he felt great. That is, he felt great until he lost his job a few months later. The damage he’d done to his own image and to the image of the company he worked for was not going to be forgotten or undone. A single walk down that low road cost him far more than he would have been willing to pay if he had known what was in store.


Staying on the high road isn’t easy. It requires perseverance and fortitude, along with a longer-term perspective. When external pressures mount, you may feel tempted to give yourself a break. But when that low road beckons, just remember that there isn’t more pie for you on the other side of that road. Instead, there’s only mud… and it’s not even a mud pie.    


{#/pub/images/DebCalvert.png}Written by Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions-Author of the DISCOVER Questions book series, Deb has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. She is certified as a Master Sales Coach, Master Trainer, and host of CONNECT! an online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour. Deb helps companies to boost productivity through people development. This work includes leadership program design and facilitation, strategic planning with executive teams, team effectiveness work, and performance management program design. 


Do you have a sales question for Deb?  Please visit our Sales Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert


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