Jaynie L. Smith is the Founder and CEO of Smart Advantage, Inc., a marketing/management consultancy whose clients range from mid-sized companies to Fortune 500 companies. Her company has taught CEOs in over 400 industries how to uncover and use competitive advantage in their sales and marketing messaging.
Jaynie consults nationally and internationally with many CEOs and high level executives in helping businesses define their competitive advantages. Her 35,000 plus hours experience consulting CEOs and 15 Top Performer Awards for CEO coaching are visible in the results that her clients experience.
MO: Can you talk about how you started your company? How has your background and experience contributed to its development and success?
Jaynie: After spending the first half of my career in Fortune 500 companies, I became a consultant. I worked for large and smaller companies and began to notice that neither did a good job of using the voice of the customer to make key decisions and to sell what is relevant. I began asking business owners and sales people to tell me their number one competitive advantage. I got mostly glib, vague answers I refer to as “blah,blah,blah.” I saw a real need here to help businesses understand how to set themselves apart.
MO: Can you explain to our readers how the Smart Advantage Process works and what results they can expect from implementing it?
Jaynie: We help organizations identify all their potential competitive advantages through an all day brainstorming session. On their own, most companies come up with about 15. We show them how to find upwards of 100. But, of course, we don’t use them in sales and marketing until we learn through double blind research that which is most valued by the customer as their hierarchy of buying criteria.
MO: What are some ways for a business to identify their competitive advantages?
Jaynie: First think about all the “deliverables” that you give a customer, anything that is not a line item. For example, take responsiveness. If that is important to a customer, measure and quantify your ability to be responsive: We answer all calls within 3 rings and last year we had a technician on location within 2 hours for 98% of the calls. (Note, it should be stated in past tense, to give evidence you are capable; a promise such as “we will be there in two hours” is less convincing.)
MO: Can you talk about your findings on the Seven Competitive Connections that most companies miss when trying to be customer focused?
Jaynie: Companies often use one broad brush for all their messaging. Our research revealed that (1) prospects buy for different reasons than existing customers; (2) each target market should be surveyed individually for what they value; (3) each level of customer selects for different attributes, e.g., a purchasing agent and an engineer will look at a buying decision from their own perspectives and needs; (4 the decision maker and the influencer have different buying criteria. (5) Research shows there is virtually no internal agreement on what is most valued by the customer (hard to deliver when no consensus), (6) resource allocations are made internally without use of the voice of the customer as foundation. (7) The source of customer data is flawed; we often rely on hearsay from sales and/or view customer satisfaction surveys as solid data.
MO: The Miami Herald said that your “elegant little book (Creating Competitive Advantage) should be mandatory reading for all entrepreneurs.” Can you give us an overview of the book and the inspiration behind it?
Jaynie: Believe it or not, so many businesses have no clue how to articulate what their relevant competitive advantages are and they are leaving profits on the table every day. I have seen business after business lower price as a differentiator. This is no road to success. I began helping a handful of businesses with these years ago. The successes that emerged were staggering. Higher sales, better margins, and shorter sales cycles were showing up in every company that got clear on their relevant competitive advantages. I began to focus my whole consultancy on this discipline as it was the wisest investment a company could make …it offered the best ROI of anything I had experienced previously.
MO: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of so far?
Jaynie: My book, Creating Competitive Advantage (Doubleday 2006) became a best seller, helping companies learn how to get their most out of their businesses. It is in its 11th printing and still helping business owners and sales people maximize their potential. My company has refined a process that we bring into organizations and guide them through the process, so we get to see up close the positive impact the process has.
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