HomeBlog If the Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes… Run!

If the Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes… Run!

May 06, 2014 | By Jim Ninivaggi

What is the ultimate way to be a brand ambassador? By demonstrating the power of your offerings by showing how your own company uses them. Find out how to achieve this

I get a lot of prospecting emails from companies. Almost all are terrible – no relevance to me and nothing about my company. A particularly off-base prospecting email recently found its way into my inbox and really got me thinking.

It was from a company that sold data analytics and business intelligence software. In the email, the rep touted the vendor’s ability to help my company target the “right buyers” at the “right time” – i.e. find people in b-to-b companies with the right titles who exhibited behaviors indicating they were actively buying. Unfortunately for this salesperson, I was not the right buyer, and it was not the right time. I don’t make these types of decisions at Sirius, nor are we currently looking for this type of solution.

If this company actually used its own solutions, the salesperson would have known that. And if I were to point this out to its CEO, CMO or CSO, they would likely shrug their shoulders and use the silliest excuse in the history of b-to-b marketing and sales: “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.”

The saying might be phrased differently at different companies: “We need to practice what we preach” or “drink our own champagne” or the classic “eat our own dog food.” (That one I never really got: Who is going to eat dog food? A Sirius colleague’s fiancée works at the pet food company Blue Buffalo. He once noted that while neither he nor his fiancée eats Blue Buffalo’s dog food, they do feed it to their dog. That makes sense to me.)

But however you put it, it’s about one thing – demonstrating the power of your offerings by showing how your own company uses them. This is the ultimate way to be a brand ambassador.

Think about it: What if you actually went to a cobbler and noticed his or her kids running around in their bare feet? I would have lots of thoughts running through my head – and none of them positive: She must not be a very good cobbler if she can’t even fix her own kids’ shoes. His business must be failing, and if I leave my shoes here, I might not get them back. What kind of parent lets their kids run around without shoes – and is this the type of person I want to do business with? (True story: I once sat down at a French restaurant and noticed they were delivering pizza to the guys in the kitchen. I got up and left – if the guys in the kitchen are getting takeout, how good can the food be?)

One of the deliverables our clients receive when working with SiriusDecisions is help in making purchasing decisions, including vendor selection. In our sales enablement service, this includes looking at vendors that provide sales training, selling tools, sales asset management and other offerings. We help our clients evaluate these vendors against many criteria, including strength and breadth of offering, rigor of implementation process and ability to integrate.

We also strongly encourage our clients to assess the vendor by answering the following questions: Did they demonstrate and model their offerings during the sales process? If a training provider’s system advocates that a salesperson demonstrate detailed knowledge about a prospect’s company, did its rep demonstrate that level of knowledge about your company? If the vendor is selling a mobile-based selling tool, did its rep demonstrate the power of the tool in the sales process? If the vendor is advocating an account planning process, was it able to share the account plan for your company? (Rather than getting a generic demo of an account plan, insist on seeing what they rep has done on your company.)

If the answer to these questions is “no,” the vendor does not practice what it preaches. Either it doesn’t believe in what it is preaching, what it’s preaching does not work, or what it’s preaching is so difficult to follow that it’s not practical. Bottom line: If the vendor doesn’t practice what it preaches, chances are, what it preaches isn’t really worth practicing.

So, if you see that the cobbler’s children are running around town with no shoes, run. And find the cobbler whose kids have the best shoes in town.

Jim Ninivaggi

Jim Ninivaggi is Service Director, Sales Enablement Strategies, at SiriusDecisions. Jim’s focus is on helping to deliver data, knowledge and insight that our clients need to improve sales performance and drive ROI. Follow Jim on Twitter @jninivaggi.
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