My dog Rocky gets her dinner every night at 4:00. At 3:55 on the nose, she starts her cajoling to get us up off our home-office chairs and onto the important business of providing chow. How she knows that it’s time, I don’t understand. But everyone with a dog will be shaking their heads right now in recognition of the phenomenon.
As soon as she’s done eating her own dog food, she’ll look to see whether the cat has left any tasty morsels behind that she can sink her teeth into.
The expression “eating your own dog food” in the business world means something else entirely. It means that a company uses their own products–the very products and services that they ask their customers to buy and use. There’s an obvious reason for that. Imagine an Apple executive at a customer meeting excusing herself to take a call–on her android mobile phone. Or Pepsi choosing to serve Coke in their cafeterias instead of Pepsi. It’s just not going to happen.
It isn’t reasonable to expect customers to use your products if you don’t use them yourself. It would be an indication that you don’t believe in your own products or that they’re so complicated even you can’t figure out how to use them. Buyers know to look for this. If you’re a salesperson you had better watch out for a new tactic that your prospects are using to weed out companies that don’t eat their own dog food.
It happened to Etien D’Hollander, CEO of Front Row Solutions and he recounted the story in an interesting blog post, “Dogfooding: Is it part of your CRM Selection Process.” Seems he was calling on a very savvy prospect who had given great thought to the 4 features he felt were most important. Then, he proceeded to meet with his prospective suppliers including Front Row and put them each to the test.
When Etien’s meeting with the prospect came to the end the prospect said, ““Ok, so you just had a sales meeting with me. I want to watch you submit your sales report from your mobile device into your CRM system.” Gasp! Not to worry. Etien promptly retrieved his cell phone from his suit pocket, tapped a few buttons, and the call report was completed. The prospect was duly impressed and shared the results of his experiment. Turns out seven CRM reps were asked to perform the same task and only 5 of the 7 could do it.
It’s not surprising to me. Many products only work the way they’re described when it’s a perfect world scenario. In a perfect world, those CRM reps would be intimately familiar with their call reporting system because they use it all day, every day. But the perfect world isn’t often the case.
If your salespeople are proposing a product or service that they themselves should be using, they better be prepared to be tested. Fortunately, this is also the case for your competitors. And that’s where you can gain a competitive advantage if you play your cards right. Unlike the prospect Etien called on, many prospects don’t know what or how to quiz the salespeople that call on them. Use that to your advantage.
Create a handy list of suggestions—a “guide”—that can be given to each prospect. The list should include the key activities they should ask each vendor under consideration to show them. If you happen to know that your CRM’s sales call reporting capability is the slickest on the market, that should go on the list of must-see-in-action features.
If you can encourage prospects to ask specific questions or require the demonstration of certain features important to the prospect and which, coincidentally are ones that you triumph in, that’s a good thing. It’s not enough for your reps to demo the features alone. The handy guide is key to the strategy because your prospect WILL NOT remember. Reps can even use the guide as a talking point to learn which areas are the most important for the prospect. It’s a helpful exercise for prospects and it will help your reps know where to focus the conversation as well as the demo. At the end of the meeting, the rep should suggest that the prospect use the list with each vendor they’re considering. This is a great technique to trip up your competition and possibly cause them to reveal their weak points or the fact that they don’t eat their own dog food.
Think about your products and your salespeople. Are they eating their own dog food? Can they readily demonstrate that to prospects? What would happen if prospects asked your salespeople to prove it to them like Etien’s prospect did? Would they be able to rise to the occasion with equal aplomb?
p.s. This is my Rocky girl: