Collector - May 2017 - 42

SALES

Sun Tzu and the Art of Collection Sales
How ancient military strategies can help you get and keep new business.
By Marc Trezza

T

he lessons of Sun Tzu's The Art of
War are thousands of years old, and
it's their time-tested wisdom and
basic simplicity that make them so valuable
to business managers today.
The book has been required reading in
institutions such as the Columbia Business
School, Harvard University and the U.S.
military, and it has been used by venture
capitalists and business leaders worldwide
for decades.
The timeless advice of Sun Tzu can
also be applied to collection sales to help
owners make better, more successful
business decisions in an often-challenging
aspect of agency management.
You may wonder how a treatise on
warfare could apply to agency sales.
Keep in mind that business strategy first
evolved from military strategy. Since the
first military leader employed infantry
and cavalry together, armies have been
successfully dealing with the challenges of

truly distinguish agencies from their
competitors, who are most often taking a
similar approach.
Sun Tzu's advice on strategy and tactics
can be a transforming tool to build a more
productive sales effort through enriched
sales methods and management.

WIN ALL WITHOUT FIGHTING
Debt collection agencies that achieve
market dominance (major market share) are
better able to influence the industry, direct
its evolution and establish an excellent
competitive position, allowing them to set
the industry's standards and define the
playing field.
Those same advantages tend to increase
revenue while lowering costs, ultimately
increasing profitability. If an agency achieves
relative market dominance properly,
prosperity will come.
That's not to say that relative market
dominance is a requirement. There are

"Sun Tzu's advice on strategy and tactics can
be a transforming tool to build a more productive
sales effort through enriched sales methods
and management."
cross-functional coordination and teams-
balancing discipline and control with
empowerment and delegation.
For many debt collection agencies, sales
is a difficult challenge. Often there is a
lack of coherent strategy and tactics-
beyond telling a salesperson to "get on
the phone and sell our services." Neither
the process nor the marketing materials

42

Editor's note: This is the first in
a series of seven articles
examining innovative sales
techniques based on Sun Tzu's
The Art of War.

agencies with a low market share that have
found defensible positions in our industry
along with sustained profitability. They
understand their strengths and weaknesses,
and have carved out a niche where they can
survive and prosper.
But this is often a dangerous position.
Sometimes clients go away even if we are
doing a great job. For instance, maybe a

client hires a new manager who brings
in an agency he worked with before to
replace you. Without a robust marketing
and sales effort to offset that loss of
revenue, the agency could find itself in
serious hardship.
The only way to truly control your
agency's destiny is to build an effective sales
approach-addressing your team, tools,
policies, procedures, benchmarks and realworld achievable goals-that will protect
your future with sustainable, profitable new
business.
This article, the first in a series of seven,
addresses one of the first steps in Sun Tzu's
writings: Laying Plans. It involves thoroughly
assessing conditions, looking for strategic
turns and comparing attributes.
Let's break each of these down.

THOROUGHLY ASSESSING
CONDITIONS
The vision of what an agency wants to
be and where it wants to go must be
planned with an awareness of reality.
Vision components articulate purpose,
mission, guiding values and a vivid image
of the agency's future. This is necessary to
determine strategy, set strategic initiatives
and align the organization.
The more sophisticated the planning
process becomes, the harder it is to
introduce flexibility to accommodate
changes. Any football coach will tell

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Collector - May 2017

Upfront
Industry News
Best Practices
FYI
Collection Tips
At Your Service
A Clean Slate
ACA International’s 2017 Convention and Exposition Feature
Calendar
Honor Roll
Spring Cleaning for Your Business
Sun Tzu and the Art of Collection Sales
We Have to Stop Meeting Like This
ACA Files Brief in Pivotal Case Challenging CFPB’s Structure and Power
Compliance
ACA SearchPoint
Last Word
Collector - May 2017 - Cover1
Collector - May 2017 - Cover2
Collector - May 2017 - 1
Collector - May 2017 - Upfront
Collector - May 2017 - 3
Collector - May 2017 - Industry News
Collector - May 2017 - 5
Collector - May 2017 - 6
Collector - May 2017 - 7
Collector - May 2017 - Best Practices
Collector - May 2017 - 9
Collector - May 2017 - FYI
Collector - May 2017 - 11
Collector - May 2017 - Collection Tips
Collector - May 2017 - 13
Collector - May 2017 - At Your Service
Collector - May 2017 - 15
Collector - May 2017 - 16
Collector - May 2017 - 17
Collector - May 2017 - 18
Collector - May 2017 - 19
Collector - May 2017 - 20
Collector - May 2017 - A Clean Slate
Collector - May 2017 - 22
Collector - May 2017 - 23
Collector - May 2017 - 24
Collector - May 2017 - 25
Collector - May 2017 - 26
Collector - May 2017 - 27
Collector - May 2017 - 28
Collector - May 2017 - 29
Collector - May 2017 - 30
Collector - May 2017 - 31
Collector - May 2017 - 32
Collector - May 2017 - 33
Collector - May 2017 - ACA International’s 2017 Convention and Exposition Feature
Collector - May 2017 - 35
Collector - May 2017 - Calendar
Collector - May 2017 - Honor Roll
Collector - May 2017 - Spring Cleaning for Your Business
Collector - May 2017 - 39
Collector - May 2017 - 40
Collector - May 2017 - 41
Collector - May 2017 - Sun Tzu and the Art of Collection Sales
Collector - May 2017 - 43
Collector - May 2017 - 44
Collector - May 2017 - 45
Collector - May 2017 - We Have to Stop Meeting Like This
Collector - May 2017 - 47
Collector - May 2017 - 48
Collector - May 2017 - 49
Collector - May 2017 - ACA Files Brief in Pivotal Case Challenging CFPB’s Structure and Power
Collector - May 2017 - 51
Collector - May 2017 - Compliance
Collector - May 2017 - 53
Collector - May 2017 - ACA SearchPoint
Collector - May 2017 - 55
Collector - May 2017 - Last Word
Collector - May 2017 - Cover3
Collector - May 2017 - Cover4
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