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Axis Power
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My current comments about this article:
 
I wrote this article in the mid '80s, long before Prez George W. coined his "Axis of Evil."  My "Axis of Power" is enduring and universal.  In fact, its applicability even on the world political stage is just as useful as it is in the marketing context set below. 

Axis Power

It's hard to conceive how a prospect's treatment "in utero" can have an impact on his/her decision, behavior, or learning style.  Yet there is a body of knowledge accumulating which substantiates such impact.  Certainly, there is little disagreement that what happens after birth has an impact on one's thinking, actions, values, etc.

So by the time you or I present or send our software/agency/marcomm proposition to an individual, a myriad of experiences -- good and bad -- have shaped this prospect's receptivity to our offer.  The challenge is maximizing the impact of this particular selling/marketing event, or piece.  To do so requires a knowledge of the factors affecting the audience which are exclusive of positioning, segmentation, or value adding.

Selling can broadly be categorized into three orientations:

PROCESS which is concerned with the mechanics, i.e., the approach / interest / demonstration / objections / close;

PRODUCT which is concerned with specifically selling and demonstrating a product's features & benefits; and finally

PEOPLE which is focused on the buyer and the type of person that s/he is.

Let's leave the first and second orientations; concentrate on the third, PEOPLE  and determine how it should influence the first two in order establish a layered marketing approach.

It's held that Carl Jung, the noted psychologist, was first responsible for talking about pyschological types. He developed the four catergories: Thinker, Sensor, Intuitor, andFeeler. Though that was in the '20s, it was far from Ragtime, for ever since there have been a multitude of classifications.

And from l964 when Mouton and Blake introduced THEMANAGERIAL GRID for rating managerial personalities, the X-Y axis has been used to plot all contrasting two dimensional behavior: Power-Empathy, Production-People, Assertiveness-Responsiveness, Okay-Not Okay, etc.

I suppose that if one could graph such quandrant profiles onto transparencies, stack and project them, the complete behavior of our prospect would evolve.  However, because selling is a combination of education, negotiation as well as motivation, those transparencies must represent not only behavioral characterisitcs, such as those mentioned above, but also learning characteristics and decisional characteristics.

Now, indeed this would produce a powerful profile of our prospect and how to best have an effect on him/her...... again independent of positioning, focus, religion or any other concepts that have been set forth in this column.  For marketers... a veritable sitting duck with all buying vulnerabilites exposed.

First, it is necessary to get comfortable with X-Y quadrants and the traits associated with them.  Simply, their validity is based upon the accumulation of observable behavior overtime.  Most problems arise trying to assign an individual into one quadrant or another. 

Here the problem is twofold.  The first problem is with the observer and the time that s/he has to observe (a topic beyond the scope of this article).  The second problem is that most people's behavior defies such constrained description, for in reality, it is a combination of styles.

Nevertheless, to varying percentages of the time wo/man's behavior is in fact predictable. And it is this certainty which should direct which pieces and pitches are prepared for each behavior/learning/decisional style in mind.  Without such attention it is possible to experience the marketing version of Xeno's paradox....always cutting the distance to the goal in half which prevents the ultimate getting there.

For example:  There is the old expression: "I hear, I forget.  I see, I remember.  I do, I understand."  Well all of the above are a way of learning.

Actually, there are about four different processes by which we learn....of which over time, one becomes our preferred style.  We learn by doing, by observing, by abstracting, and by experimenting.

And regardless of the style, each of us enter a new learning experience with a perceptual preset which has been tuned (and will be retuned by subsequent experiences) by our histories, values, needs etc.

From above, it is obvious that the author's preferred learning style was by doing. Which I suppose is all great for learning theory, but in a selling situation the question still remains, "How will one decide to buy after learning?"

So, let's look at deciding..... The same holds for decision making processes.  There are two continuums on which people decide:  There is the amount of data that is required to make the decision; and the number of solutions which can be arrived at as acceptable based on that data.  Placed on a X-Y scale, there would be a quandrant for a lot of data with one solution; a lot of data with many acceptable solutions; little data with one solution; and little data with many solutions.

Here is where the layered marketing approach becomes important.  It's tenents are basic.

1. Be certain to have available all the information, processes, and polices for a prospect to make a decision.

2. Only provide the information, processes, and policies necessary for a prospect to make a decision... anything else is unnecessary, unproductive, and confusing.

Since the permutations are too great to allow a full discourse, let this one example serve the point. Here are three transparent X-Y charts depicticting two prospects:

PROSPECT A
   Behavior = Controlling
   Learning = Experience
   Deciding = Lots of data - one best solution

PROSPECT B
   Behavior = Controlling
   Learning = Observation
   Deciding = Little data - multiple solutions

To sell PROSPECT A software, or anything for that matter, requires that the vendor must have inplace.... (1) A demo facilitiy or capability  (2) A low risk (probably free) trial (3) Third party write ups such as Data Pro (4) Brand comparisons as established by other users (5) Other evidences of the absolute correctness of fit as established through a benchmark of the product.

To sell PROSPECT B on the other hand could be as easy as (1) Showing a respectable reference list  (2) Hinting at the benefits to be garnered if only X% were realized... and the recoverability if all failed.

Recently, I learned of an office manager who spent over $6,000 on an office copier.  She had learned of my exhaustive copier evaluation and decision to acquire Brand X.  I called her to ask how she could have made such a decision with so little firsthand facts.  Her answer was disarmingly simple:  "I figured that if it was good enough for you, it was good enough for me!"  You know, she was absolutly correct.  Both of us are pleased with the purchases.  True story.

Herein lies the danger of dealing with all prospects like B.  Selling them only seems simple.  Such prospects emesh themselves in multiple networks of people whose opinions are respected on various subject matter.  These "network" people are probably much more like Prospect A; they make you work hard and long for the sale.... just as they do to themselves to gather and analyze the data for a decision.

AXIS & QUADRANTS

Because the world is segmentable into quandrants; and because everyone is a part of this world, without changing a hair, we (individually, or in a corporate entity sense) will be likeable to and like 25% of those we meet and sell. We'll have an easy time; they see things our way! We're all in the same quadrant.  That's Axis Power!

There will be some difficulty relating to the next 50%, because they are hybrids of our type and/or style.  Here we share only one or the other of any character trait placed on a twodimensional X-Y axes.

And, there are 25% of the people who are very difficult to us because they do not share a common trait along any continuum by which we compare ourselves.  At best we accommodate this group... at worst, we fight with them.  If you've ever had a "difficult" boss, you know this desparate feeling of futility.  If you're a young, thinly financed company, loose this prospect be it a potential buyer, banker, or investor.  Life is too short... and your differences were born long before the current relationship.  In short, fish where your bait works!

As marketers and strategists, accepting Axis Power is important on a far reaching basis. And there are some conscious decisions that must be made. Just as markets are segmented and targeted based upon products and resources available to enter these markets, it is necessary to realize that unless there is a concentrated effort to reach all inthat market, there will be a reduction -- which according to Axis Power could be as large as 75% -- of that market's total potential, due to a lack of behavioral / educational / decisional pathways necessary to consummate sales.

For companies with limited resources this recognition is critical.  Knowing the profile of prospects which can most easily be sold is key to maximizing cashflow and profit margins.  Often times it is just not possible to have what is necessary to close a given prospect, i.e.,....a large number of customers/comparisons/third party write-ups, if thecompany/product has just been launched.  For this reason buying "pioneers" are so essential to a start-up's selling tactics and growth strategies.

It's also clear why certain companies/buyers close in the late stages of a product cycle.......there is a lot of data on it and the suitability of fit has been firmly established.

For larger companies, with abundant resources, seeking the aggrandizement of market share it is important to identify and implement the additional procedures and polices which must be added to reach that moderately hard to get 50% and the extremely difficult to get 25% of the market that it is pursuing.  Oddly, in this case it is not unusual to find that an initially unsolicited "pioneer" is no longer a candidate for a product because they're already into a more advanced version from another company.

That's when Axis Power works against you. The reason: Time!
So what are we waitng for?

Sottile's Winning Action Team
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Tactical Marketing Agency

"Marketing Tactics Make Corporate Strategies Happen!"
                                                                   John Sottile