Which Ocean Are You Swimming In?

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

The Blue Ocean Strategy Diver

 No, this post isn’t about oceans. Well, not the oceans you may be thinking of. This post is about the infamous term Blue Ocean Strategy in the world of business. If you haven’t heard this term or know about it, you can learn more here and here.

This book, fundamentally, is about the markets that we play in, the companies that we work for, advantages of some business models over others and much more. However, I’ve always been fascinated with the implications of Blue Ocean Strategy and how it applies (almost hand-in-glove) to our industry of sales. Humor me for a few minutes and read on, please.

Without delving in too deeply, there are two types of oceans that companies play in.

The Red Ocean

Companies that play by the rules of the industry, with more competition than you can count, shrinking margins, and very tough to get customer mindshare. Think about starting a new PC manufacturing business today. It would be incredibly difficult to compete with the likes of HP, Dell and Lenovo. The waters would be full of sharks and blood in no time.

The companies that get into business to compete with a known (albeit time-tested) business model is the norm these days. Chances are that the company you work for isn’t really that unique from this perspective. You’re selling the same way your competitors are, with the same corporate structure, with virtually identical business models.

In short, if your company has created their business model and corporate structure to emulate others and work around existing marketing conditions, welcome to The Red Ocean. This isn’t necessarily something that you have full control over, so it’s important to know where you can exert control and effort.

The Blue Ocean

The Blue Ocean is achieved when people realize that strategies can innovate and shape the structure of their business environment. The popular example that’s usually given is Cirque du Soleil. Instead of competing with the known and dated business model of a typical circus, they went on to reinvent the industry. They disturbed it by adding something that they envisioned. How powerful. They didn’t settle and compete with the big boys; they created their own niche (they didn’t carve out anything).

Red Ocean SharksThe Opportunity: Sales Can & Should Play in the Blue

If you understand these two points, you’ll instantly realize the parallel I’m trying to draw between Blue Ocean Strategy and sales professionals. Think about it: what do you do every day? How are you going about finding and retaining customers? Chances are, you’re in an army of people all trained to do the same thing…over and over again. This predictability isn’t necessarily bad, but is it working?

Is your cold calling and blind e-mail prospecting strategy working? If you’re doing the same thing everyone else is, then you’re playing in the Red Ocean of sales. You’re not going to have any chance to express your true creative skills and stand out with your vision and ideas.

How can you get in the Blue Ocean? Well, one way is to sell Socially. Because Social Selling requires you to get to know your future buyers, add value first and demonstrate leadership, you’ll have the opportunity to innovate. Why would you want to “carve out a niche” of a pie that’s already overcrowded? Creating a niche would be so much more fun.

The Bottom Line

Social Selling is by definition the greatest opportunity you’ll have today to innovate. It ensures that you stand out from the rest of the sales crowd by trying new things. And, most importantly, it places the customer front and center of your goals. If you plan on shaping your company’s sales goals, it’s a must-have.

Need some help in learning the basics? Feel free to contact me to get started.

To learn more about Social Selling check out 10 Steps to Becoming a Social Selling Machine or 9 Steps to a Winning LinkedIn Profile for Sales Professionals. For tips, tricks and more rants, we could always set-up a time to chat using my below schedule …

Amar Sheth


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