Many IT service providers are looking at capturing incremental revenue by using pro-active selling rather than waiting for clients to issue RFPs. That requires research on the target account, and one tool for that is an analysis of the client’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats — a SWOT.
I mentioned SWOT analyses in the last post, and I know from working with many IT service providers that they are a valuable tool for self-assessment — a necessary one I think. But here we’ll consider it as a framework for thinking about your prospect.
Why a SWOT?
Well the “S”, the strengths, will tell you the key things that the client has to build on as it seeks to thrive and compete, to grow its business. A focus on strengths is useful to keep the vision firmly on those things that actually have the most chance of success. That’s what we should all do as individuals in thinking about our own careers, and as businesses too. Applying it to your clients means you put your effort where it will pay off most for the client. Creating customer value is a necessary precursor to capturing value for yourself.
Weaknesses can matter too, and you may be able to offer solutions for some. But they will tend not to get the same degree of attention or investment. It’s good to understand them, however. Threats are similar in a way. These are external factors that cause risk to the future of the business. They can create the “fear, uncertainty and doubt” (FUD) beloved of some marketers, and thus may help you get attention. But in the end they are not a way to create new value, which is what you need to create growth for the client and you.
The “O”, the opportunities are in my experience of doing SWOTs the hardest. That’s because there are usually so many external factors that the business could potentially exploit. The hardest thing is to narrow them down to the best ones, the ones where the company can actually differentiate itself and lead in a segment of the market. For the same reason they are, together with strengths, the most important for this kind of analysis. The Eldorado you are looking for is a clear opportunity that plays into a powerful strength. When you’re doing the SWOT on a target account, this is where the ideas for pro-active proposals should be focused.
Much of the value for you will come from the actual process of doing the work of the SWOT. So, once the desk research has been done, the team doing the actual analysis should be the account team, the people who engage with the client, develop ideas and solutions and sell them. Years as a marketer, sales person and manager have taught me the value of hands-on activity when it relates directly to the business and to clients. Ideas usually can’t be forced, but they do tend to pop up when you’re immersed in the subject but doing something else.
For methods and tools like SWOT, I have found this book useful: Fleisher and Bensoussan, “Strategic and Competitive Analysis” 
These blog posts will continue to explore the business of IT Services, especially strategy, marketing and sales.
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