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Why You Need to Sell for the Category King (or Quit), with Christopher Lochhead [Episode 591]

Christopher Lochhead, the host of Legends & Losers Podcast, retired Silicon Valley executive, and co-author of Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets, joins me on this episode.


  • Christopher says the single biggest challenge facing sales reps today is understanding if their company is going to be the category king in their market or not. If not, they should quit and work for the king. 2nd best is not enough.
  • For their book, the authors tracked VC-backed companies founded from 2000 to 2015. They tracked financing and how their market caps changed. 76% of market cap went to the leader in each category. Winner take all!
  • Play Bigger is about dominating markets. The category king is the company that designs and owns the market category and teaches the world to think as they think. Pepsi will never catch Coke. Bing will never catch Google.
  • Christopher points to Henry Ford, Sara Blakely, and
    Steve Jobs as pioneers who taught the world to think differently about a problem and a solution. One company takes two-thirds of the economics. Sell for that company.
  • In a startup in a new category, there is no line item in the buyer’s budget for a product that never was. You have to meet the category where it is and take it forward. Henry Ford presented a horseless carriage, not an automobile.
  • The value of being on the category winning team is more than the value of being anywhere else. It’s pretty fun to be on the team that is laying the others to waste. When you’re different, you design the rules of the new space.
  • Christopher uses Spanx and 5-Hour Energy as examples of category creators that own their categories. Existing categories can be redesigned or new categories can be designed. If you’re not there, you’re losing.
  • Nobody does an RFP or hires a consultant to figure out which office suite to buy. We just buy Microsoft Office. Microsoft has over 90% share in that space, even though there is a great free suite from Google.
  • It’s only when the problem definition shifts, and the solution definition shifts, that the category gets redefined. Dell kept innovating but lost the category. We need category innovation or category violence.
  • Reed Hastings, Founder of Netflix, didn’t start out to compete with Blockbuster. He created violence in the category of getting movies to your house. Blockbuster went bankrupt.
  • Andy talks about the growing number of competitors to Salesforce. Christopher talks about the category design that made the company. In 1999 it wouldn’t sell, but Benioff evangelized until his way of thinking won.
  • Christopher discusses Spiro.ai vs. Salesforce. In the enterprise software world, we are moving to apps that do things for us. Spiro is a proactive app that helps sales reps very simply. NetSuite dominates the category SAP owned.