No, this is not a setup for a joke, but observations from a person forced to sit on the sidelines of a Bazaar – and the lessons learnt from that experience.
First of all, most of you know what a Bazaar is – essentially a network of streets lined with small stalls and shops, selling a variety of products. In fact, I found out that there is a term called the “Bazaar Economy” – “… in which a new kind of entrepreneur gathers people and teams together as needed in a business environment that more closely mirrors the fast-moving give and take of the bazaar than the institutions of old. In this Bazaar Economy, the former free agents – who merely sold their individual services – will become a kind of ‘Extrapreneur’: part CEO, part Recruiter, part Partner, part Business Developer, they buy and aggregate the services and goods of others, focusing their efforts on select partnerships with other entrepreneurial groups. By doing so, they create more value, not only for themselves but also for the community around them…” Interesting.
Most of you have probably been at a Bazaar – be it a middle-eastern souk or your local Church’s fundraiser – and would recognize that there are several common characteristics of Bazaars:
- They always seem to be bustling
- Even though there is a mix of vendors and products, there are always several vendors selling similar products
- Most of these vendors know what the competition is selling the product for – so there is a level of price transparency
- Some vendors selling the same product are more successful than their competitors
- Most buyers seem to be satisfied or happy with the purchases they made at the successful vendors – and will give them repeat business
I observed all this while waiting for someone at a Bazaar recently, and with the mind in overdrive with some street masala chai, tried to equate that to what I do – sell IT services…and found that there was a lot of similarity.
- There are a lot of small and large vendors selling similar IT services
- Some of these vendors are more successful than others
- For non-routine services, price is not really a differentiator
So what lessons did I glean by observing people going about their normal way of life for centuries – and applying that to IT services sales in 2015? Most of these are common sense, and we do it unconsciously, but I thought it would be good to publish them for my own benefit…
- The more successful vendors used marketing effectively – be it location, presentation of product or use of gimmicks – to attract the buyer’s attention a few seconds longer than their competitors. Equating that to our business, buyers already know what they are looking for, and they would be looking for qualified vendors to satisfy the need. Vendors who figure higher in searches, or add value by offering valuable information or expertise through their web or social presence will get a chance to play.
- The more successful vendors had a differentiating factor other than price – for example, there were five vendors selling fruit sitting close to each other. The fruit looked similar, and their prices were similar – then why did one vendor have more buyers than others? That vendor was more confident about his product, and was offering a taste test, as well as a money back guarantee. Lesson learnt – be confident about the skills of your delivery team, and be ready to back up your promises all the way.
- The more successful vendors had a repeat clientele – some buyers were walking directly to some of their preferred vendors, ignoring their competitors – even those with a better presentation. Possibly these folks had been buying from these preferred vendors daily or weekly, and had built up a trust factor. They could now go directly to these vendors for their purchases and save time – knowing that they were getting a fair deal and a good product (or if they were buying for someone else, they could be sure that there would be no issues). Key takeaway: relationships matter, and it is easier to win repeat business if your performance is above and beyond expectations – with superior customer service.
- The more successful vendors understood the customer needs better and created creative solutions – being in a Bazaar setting, there were a variety of buyers with different needs for the same product. The successful sellers understood what the buyer was looking for, and used their experience and expertise to come up with solutions to satisfy those specific needs. This is key for selling IT services – understand the scope fully, know the timing and focus on how you can make the buyer look good in his or her superior’s eyes.
Needless to say, every moment is a learning experience…