Avoid Getting Martha Stewart-ed
Many thanks to all of you who responded to last week’s blog about me needing topic ideas. The first responder, Michelle, asked about how to prevent getting your ideas stolen by customers or prospects. And for those of you not familiar with the reference in the title, I have heard that Ms. Stewart is famous for co-opting other people’s ideas and taking credit for them herself. Let me frame this out for you.
You do your research. You find a prospect that you would really like to do business with. Their issues are a perfect fit for your solutions. You make your pitch, in part by saying that you have some great ideas to share. And it works. You get the appointment.
You have a fantastic meeting, build great rapport, and fill the prospect’s head with some new direct mail innovations, or some fancy new fold you learned about on PIworld.com, or some other earth shattering idea. The prospect thanks you and promises to call you “soon,” but you later discover that s/he took your ideas, shopped them around, and sold you down the river for a lower price...or to an incumbent vendor...or to his/her brother-in-law.
It happens, right? Can you prevent it? Well, that is tough.
On the one hand, we might just have to accept that it happens to all of us, and that we choose how much of the idea to divulge and at what stage in the sale.
Or, you could try to get ahead of it. What if you said in the meeting, “I have some real innovations to share with you. My expectation is that if I consult with you on this project and we see eye to eye on the parameters and you like my ideas, that you will agree to award me the project. How does that sound to you?”
Then you should just shut up and let him/her agree to it.
And if s/he STILL goes around you, chalk it up to karma and decide if that’s the kind of person you care to do business with.
My friend and co-blogger Bill Farquharson would say that WE have the power to decide who to do business with, and if a person reveals themselves to be untrustworthy, disrespectful or posses any other undesirable trait, eventually, you will be sorry to have them as a customer. And I happen to agree.
I believe in abundance. And karma. And the more we share and conduct ourselves with integrity beyond reproach, the more our good behavior will be rewarded.
This is a really tough issue, because our ideas are some of the only ways that we can differentiate ourselves today. And we will only survive if we can use our innovation to stay relevant to customers and prospects.
I advise my customers to interject as much humanity and honesty into all communication as they are comfortable with. Remember, you are a human being having a conversation with another human being. So consider saying something like, “You know, Bob, I have been in a few situations in my career where I have given a customer an idea and they have taken that idea and given to another vendor. I hope that if I can prove myself to you, that will not be the case here.”
What is the worst thing that can happen? Let’s hear it.