When you’re selling, it’s tempting to pitch yourself as an all-services-encompassing vendor. I know, I’ve carried a bag. Based on my experience in sales, I don’t completely fault those who adopt this positioning.
It’s not necessarily employed with bad intent, either. When you meet a potential client you’re excited to work with, it’s easy to fall into the trap of over-promising to close the deal.
On the customer side of the table, the One-Stop-Shop, or OSS, is an equally tantalizing proposition. Someone offering to simplify your workflow and solve all of your problems sounds incredibly appealing. But both sides of the table should proceed with caution here.
The potential client who’s being pitched should ask the other person: “But what do you do well?”
If that’s everything, then the customer should be a very critical listener and wonder, "How many Michelin star restaurants serve hamburgers, pizzas, BBQ, tacos, and sushi?"
The OSS’s value proposition is built upon the promise of ease: get what you need from a single service provider. You'll save time or money, maybe both.
The reality is not usually so simple.
The seller may grant a discount to the customer due to the larger engagement of work encompassing different services, but nothing comes entirely free, so what might the tradeoffs be?
Will this arrangement still deliver the best quality of work product in all areas? If not, can the customer afford to make these sacrifices?
As one fellow consultant wisely observed, it’s hard to do one thing — let alone all things — well, so the customer is likely not receiving the same value in each area and is sacrificing quality somewhere.
But as far as the savings of time and money go, a promise made is unfortunately not so easily a promise kept. The truth is there are very likely hidden costs to be paid.
If the seller over-promised on the superiority, the scope, or the speed of their work product, he’s likely to end up frustrating his customer as the supposed upfront savings vanish later on due to the delayed delivery of satisfactory work.
This could end up costing time and money for everyone involved, as missed deadlines today lead to lost business tomorrow. The ensuing reputational damage could be even more widespread and long-lasting.
So here’s my pitch to the sales side of the table who may be tempted to sell clients on the OSS: rather than be a Jack of All Trades and Master of None, become a Master of Some Speciality.
It’s okay to do multiple things — diversification of revenue streams can be a good thing in an unpredictable business environment.
Still, it’s better to pick an area of focus, hone your craft, and build a brand around something you’re really good at. The possibility of becoming great and gaining a market-leading reputation for your speciality will still be hard-fought. But you’ll have a better shot if you pursue this path.
Moreover, when it comes to conversions with clients or would-be clients, you’ll have a lot more credibility if you’re honest about what you should do, as opposed to what you could do.
If you’re able to carve out a niche for yourself based on your specialty, you’ll likely find yourself sending work you’re not as well suited for to other specialists who may return the favor in kind.
If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in this situation of mutual referrals, you’ll win plaudits from your customers for being great at what you do and for knowing other ‘A’ Players, establishing an even greater reputation for excellence.
Given the choice between the well-rounded OSS or the sharpened Specialist, pick the latter. It’ll help you get an edge over your competition.
Steve Johnston is the COO of FlexPoint Media, an ad agency specializing in media placement for campaigns, causes, and companies looking for the best approach to reach their target audiences.
Prior to FlexPoint Media and his years as an award-winning sales executive at Google, he co-founded a predictive analytics company backed by Y Combinator. Follow him on Twitter: @stevenejohnston.