What I Learned About Running Shoes

“Build a business that caters to the best clients…the clients that are best for you. More is not better. Better is better.” Mike Michalowicz, The Pumpkin Plan

Ok, running shoes might seem like an odd topic for a technology newsletter, but sometimes it’s good to look outside one’s profession or industry and apply new ideas and new ways of thinking.

And, I like to run.

I recently needed to get a new pair of running shoes, so I decided to stop by a shoe store called RoadRunner.

There are a lot of choices to buy athletic shoes; from Walmart to sporting stores to the internet. But because I value fitness, I’m willing to pay a bit extra to go to a specialty store. I knew that RoadRunner was focused on running shoes only; they didn’t sell camping equipment, bicycles, or even baseball or football equipment – they were a perfect fit.

And it turns out they had a singular focus that was apparent the moment I stepped into the store:

  1. Greeted with “have you been to Roadrunner’s before” (not the usual “Can I help you”).
  2. A “production-line” approach to qualifying me including a questionnaire, an “interview” about the type of activity treadmill analysis of my running style, foot measurement, pressure test, and a mold of my foot.
  3. Another associate who suggests several shoe options that best fit my needs.
  4. After I select the shoe I want, an escort to the cash register.
  5. Upsell of custom insoles and socks (with a high profit margin I expect)
  6. A discount if you sign up for their VIP program.

I liked their sales approach and I think it is similar to our sales process:

  1. Meet the new prospect
  2. Network analysis including interviews of key employees
  3. Set appointment to present findings
  4. Create and deliver network analysis including recommendations
  5. Agree (hopefully) to a service agreement
  6. Recommend additional products such as a phone systems (yes we sell them!), bandwidth upgrades, security products, copiers, etc.

And RoadRunner keeps in touch. They host an “Adventure Run” monthly for their customers as a way to keep nurture their customers, and to showcase their new products. We do the same with scheduled monthly visits and periodic business reviews.

Which brings us back to the quote from Mike Michalowicz above. Companies that specialize are perceived as providing greater value to their clients. In the IT business, it’s important to know what you’re providing to the client and how it will benefit them. Just selling products without regard to the client’s real needs is a disservice and not likely to lead to success. Roadrunner focuses on runners; BCS focuses on small and medium sized professional firms. Hopefully we do it better than the “Kmarts” of the industry.