Author: William L. MacDonald
Publisher: AuthorHouse. 175 pages
Book Review by Ramu Nakliba
MERGE is a process of sales and marketing that stands for:
Magnify: Research phase to identify value gaps
Engage: Longevity phase to expand trust, stay engaged and bring value
Recommend: Consulting phase to identify alternatives
Generate: Creation phase to evaluate alternatives, generate solutions and implement
Explore: Intervening phase to confirm value gap.
This is a book about marketing and sales, not about company mergers and acquisitions, as I first thought it was.
There are hundreds of books in the market about the critical importance of sales. Sales is a primary requirement of all companies these days, and growth of sales is key to increasing profit, which can be invested to further grow sales by adding financing to add products and services, adding employees to sell them, and adding outlets to further increase sales and profits. The cycle of growth goes on in this way.
So, realizing that sales and its growth are key first requirements to creating a successful business, how does a company tackle the problem of competition? How does a company differentiate itself from its competitors?
Indeed, how does a company offer something its customers need that other companies cannot? If you’re in the product business, it is easier, with everything else being equal.
But if you’re in the business of providing services, it is not that easy to differentiate yourself from your competitors. About the first thing that comes to mind is to provide superior customer service.
Selling financial services – which are typically priced in the thousands of dollars and involve a long-term payment plan – is even tougher than selling other kinds of services,
that may be low-dollar amount, short-term or immediate, and likely have a one-time payment. Examples: employing the services of a plumber or electrician, barber or beautician.
Bill MacDonald starts out in his first chapter by saying that everyone sells something, not just salespeople. We sell from the moment we are born. An author, a politician, a teacher – everyone has to sell himself to other, to advance in life.
So if selling is a natural part of human existence, selling should be easy to do, right?
Far from it. The main obstacle to selling is that many, many people have similar aptitudes, knowledge, skills and talents as you have. Many others can supply the same or similar products and services as you can.
So the first lesson to learn is how to differentiate yourself from your competition. The entire second chapter deals on differentiation. “Dare to differentiate,” MacDonald urges you.
However, before you differentiate yourself and sell, you need to develop a market-entry strategy. Before you sell, you need a marketing plan. MacDonald explains that on one end of a bridge is the salesperson and on the other end is the client. The bridge, with its towers, pylons, cables, road and all – is the marketing plan. So before you recruit and hire a salesperson, is your bridge ready?
He urges you to create a marketing plan. Know at the outset what values you can provide, including those that are unique or different, to potential customers. Know what is your “sweet spot” and you will identify your target market. See what your competitors are doing and you will be able to properly position yourself in the market. Do you have some unique services or products your competition does not have, or cannot easily supply? Then capitalize on that uniqueness or difference to develop your sales revenue. That can be your competitive advantage.
Even after you have differentiated yourself from competitors, developed a go-to-market plan, have a unique product or service, positioned yourself well in the market, you still lack a critical component in the sales process: a crystal-clear understanding and close knowledge of your clients’ buying processes, along with a common thread among them.
How do most of your clients make decisions? Do most of them have a marketing committee? Who are the decision makers and who are the players around them that have supporting roles? The more you know of the buying processes, especially of your largest existing and prospective clients, the more money you can have in your bank account.
This is a very useful book and Bill MacDonald has simplified the usually complex and tough job selling with his five-part MERGE sales process.