Great salespeople take the time to understand the competition. Like winning sports teams look at films and data on their competition, you need to know all you can about the competition. By cataloging the strengths and weaknesses of the competition great salespeople know how to position themselves to win the deal.
Who Is A Competitor?
The simple answer is any other company who wants the same business with a customer as you do. They either are the incumbent supplier to a company you want to gain business with or a company looking to take business away from you. Sometimes the customer can be seen as type of competitor when they are reluctant to change from the status quo regardless of the current problems.
What To Know About A Competitor?
The short answer is everything. Today with the availability of the Internet, salespeople can find out a lot about the competition. Check out their website. Many have lists of their customers, examples of projects completed, catalogs of products, features and benefits pages, and some even have pricing on line. Great salespeople first list their own strengths then look for the corresponding weakness in a competitor. For example if a high level of service is required check out the location of a competitor. If they have a longer response time than you then promote your service level when competing against them.
Ask A Customer
Great salespeople have built strong relationships with their customers. When they win work, salespeople need to ask the customer why they made the decision in their favor. Likewise when they are not awarded work, great salespeople ask for the reason a competitor won. Customers have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each vendor. The salesperson needs to be aware of how they are perceived by the customer. When there is a misperception, the salesperson corrects it. Sometimes a salesperson is invited to propose on a project where the customer perceives the competitor’s strength is important. By understanding the value the customer is expecting, a great salesperson can tailor the presentation to win the work.
Collaborate Or Compete?
When I sold custom fabricated metal products, our unique selling proposition was high-end architectural metalwork. Other fabricators focused on more mundane products. By knowing the competitors’ niche and strengths, I could often find ways to work together on a project or to refer customers with business more suitable for the project. There were projects by having good relationships with competitors we could team up to win work beneficial to both of us. Collaboration needs to be above board. It should be transparent to the buyer. Dividing territories or customers, colluding on bids, or other illegal activities is not beneficial collaboration. Great salespeople consider the best interest of the customer. Sometimes that means referring work to a competitor.
What You Can Do Right Now
- Make a list of your competitors.
- Match your strengths against their weaknesses.
- Think of how collaboration can add value to your customer’s business.
Don Crawford & Lois Carter Crawford