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Selling Pepsi in the South

9261653363_79dff7e5e9_mWe sell Pepsi. Or at least that’s what I like think we do here at Puryear IT. To be more specific, we sell Pepsi in the South.

But we’re an IT company, not a bottler or PepsiCo.

So what do I mean by “We sell Pepsi”?

A first note: Coke is what we drink here. Not Pepsi. There are a few reasons for that. For one thing, Coke is from the South. In fact, the first bottler of Coke was in Mississippi and it’s been a whirlwind for Coca-Cola (Coke) ever since.

Coke is dominate in this part of the country. So much so that when somebody from the South orders a “soda”, they say “Can I have a Coke?” The waiter is then expected to ask “What kind?” The response is generally either “a regular Coke” or, if we’re feeling a little original that day, “a Sprite please”. That’s how embedded Coke is to the culture of the South.

So imagine the salesman instructed to sell Pepsi in the South. You can visualize that meeting. The salesman walks into his manager’s office and sits down. The manager then looks at the salesman and says “Okay, you are going to make Pepsi huge in the South.” (Keep in mind that Pepsi is originally from North Carolina, not South Carolina.) The salesman sweats a little and responds, “I don’t think that’s going to work. They drink Coke. They make Coke. It’s all they want to drink. You can’t sell Pepsi in the South.” That guy was fired. He in fact couldn’t sell Pepsi in the South.

The second person tasked with selling Pepsi in the South was smarter. Instead of saying it was entirely impossible, he realized it was impossible in only a very specific way: “I can’t sell Pepsi to the Average Joe there, but I can sell Pepsi in the South.” He didn’t focus on the one option that didn’t work. He focused on the one that did: He sold Pepsi to restaurants.

So instead of fighting the impossible fight, he went around the problem. These days you can’t go out to eat and order Coke without being told “Oh, sure, will Pepsi do? That’s what we offer. Oh, and Slice.” So you are going to buy Pepsi or drink water more often than not.

As an IT company, we sell Pepsi in the South. Yes, we are in a very complicated technical business. We have customers that have on-premise servers and enterprise applications; cloud file servers and online payroll; centrally managed WiFi and roaming users. It’s a very exciting time to be in our business. But we also know that if we get fixated on one solution (“All customers must run a network server at their office”, “Windows 8 or die”, “Shrinkwrap software is the only kind of supportable software”) then we’re going to fail. Instead, we have to take a step back and ask: “Are we trying to sell Pepsi the wrong way? What’s the other option here? How do I sell Pepsi in the South?”

We can be the first salesman or the second. We’d rather be the second.

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