-by Shamus Brown
The reason why you have a job in sales is because our markets are constantly getting more competitive. Every year, every month, and every day products are coming out better, faster, and closer together. Almost as soon as your company dreams up a great new idea for product or feature, your competition seems to think of it too and get it to market.
If this weren't the case, it would be much cheaper for our corporations to just hire order takers or setup e-commerce websites to let people buy everything unassisted.
We often find ourselves in sales situations involving serious competition. To win the most business you are capable of in a competitive marketplace, you must know the right sales tactics to use at the right time.
So what do you do? Engage when you have clear superiority.
Sounds simple, but a lot of people ignore this one. When pursuing customers, you want to engage your competition only when you have the superior solution to win the battle with. Do this right, and you'll win most of your sales. And if everyone did this, there would be few or no fights.
However, not everyone does this.
And when they do, many do it poorly.
Most salespeople know something about their competition. The top few know their competitors as well or better than they know themselves. These top salespeople know the following important things about their competitors:
When you know these things as new prospects come up, you'll be in position to quickly decide "should I pursue this piece of business?" Pursuing the right business and avoiding the wrong business is one of the simplest ways to be highly successful in sales. This is not always easy to do though because we often have pressures from our peers and those we work for to pursue any and every lead with pulse. Do what you know is right, and watch your close ratio increase.
Oh, and how do you find these things out about your competiton? Spy on them. No, I don't mean break into their office in the middle of the night. Spying is easy with the internet and a telephone.
Simply use the web (and other publicly available info sources such as an annual report) to find out the names of some of your competition's customers. Then call these companies up posing as someone who is looking to buy the same product as they bought. Since voicemail is common these days, you may need to setup an unlisted number at home with a voicemail that you can configure yourself to make your identity appear real.
A few conversations held in this manner will yield 100 times the value of what you will ever learn from the trade press or your competitor's brochures. Use your newfound knowledge to decide whether and when to engage your competition.
Once you've decided to engage, you will want to maintain your upper hand. You do this by consciously deciding to weaken your enemy before the battle starts.
At the beginning of a sale, your customer may be looking at a number of different vendors. You can build your stature and diminish that of your top competitor by positioning them as yesterday's news.
The tactic works like this. You ask your prospect what vendors they are evaluating or looking to buy from. Most prospects will tell you who they are looking at. Once they have told you who they are looking at, choose one of the weaker competitors from their list and say "Oh, Mad-Dog Systems is a good company. I have heard some good things about them".
Your prospect will take note of this, and will want to pay some extra attention to the one that you "fear". The prospect will also note that you didn't mention who he expected to hear as your #1 competitor, and may be surprised by that.
Your prospect may even ask you about your top competitor: "So What do you know about Thunderbird Technologies?" Here's where you go in for the kill. You will want to reply by acting surprised and saying "Thunderbird Technologies? We hardly see them being evaluated by our customers anymore."
At this point, you may be further asked "Why?" you don't see them in your deals anymore. Here is where you have a couple of good weaknesses of theirs ready to cite as reasons why they are falling behind in your marketplace.
This technique enables you to reposition your top competitor as an also-ran without looking like you are slamming your competition.
Don't give your competition any more strength than they already have. Even if you are the number 2 or 3 vendor in your marketplace, act as if you are the number 1 vendor (or at least number one in your defined niche). And if you followed above rule and engaged only where you have superior strength, then you will be the number 1 vendor for the deals that you decide to go after.
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