In the world of sales, competition provides one of the single biggest obstacles to success. For example, a survey conducted by McKinsey & Company found that 85 percent of global executives believe their business environment has become more competitive over the course of the past five years.
Yet, at the same time, competition is a driving force behind improved customer service and innovation, while simultaneously providing customers with a greater choice. Therefore, competition does not need to be viewed as a negative thing, and with the right approach, you can use it to improve your own performance.
Research, Research, Research
Ignorance may be bliss, but when dealing with sales competitors, it puts you at a significant disadvantage. In order to conquer the competition, you must know your enemy. This means acquiring a knowledge of the products or services they offer, knowing their pricing strategies, understanding their appeal, and so on.
For instance, you can set up Google Alerts to monitor what people are saying about your competitors, Owler to keep your finger on the pulse of financials and CEO satisfaction, and social media sites to see how they interact with customers.Another great way to monitor what your competitors are doing is looking at competitor 10K’s. For those of you who don’t know—a form 10K is an annual report required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that gives a comprehensive summary of a company’s financial performance.
Some leaders don’t read the entire financials, but only the sub-notes and the management discussion from the CEO. Without scanning pages of data, these provide insights about the main initiatives the company wanted to look at in the next quarter.
The downside to 10-K’s is they’re only available for publicly held firms. If you’re prospecting a private company, here are a few things you can try:
- Using the competitor’s 10-K’s and/or annual reports, find out what the priorities of their top 3 competitors are, and try and gauge if your prospect is at a competitive disadvantage.
- Find out larger industry trends using Gartner Quadrants to discover if your prospect is in line with these trends.
- If all this fails, try doing a Google search for the company name with .pdf or .pptx, which might turn up documents they unintentionally haven’t hidden from search engines.
Highlighting what your prospect’s competitors are doing is incredibly valuable to them. Remember, the goal here isn’t to sell your product or solution right off the bat. It’s to perk their interest in your solution by highlighting how it can alleviate one of their pain points, and positioning yourself as a consultant in the buying process.
Alternatively, you could consider asking your own customers for their views on your rivals, including what they like and dislike. Important findings can then be shared during sales executive training.
Indeed, such information can enhance the quality of your sales training as a whole, helping you to develop a more knowledgeable team. After all, a salesperson who knows what the competition has to offer, and knows what prospects can expect from other companies, can use the information to make a more attractive sales pitch.
Stand Out From the Pack
When seeking advice on how to deal with competition, the one word you will hear over and over again is ‘differentiation’. To outperform competitors, you have to offer something different from what they offer – and it has to be different in a way that better serves or understands the needs of your target market.
Direct-mail account-based sales feat. pinata: just one way to stand out from the pack.
Many people think differentiation is driven entirely by products and services, but you can achieve it through sales executive training. Use your training sessions to break established sales patterns and encourage sales staff to approach things differently. Listen to customers, and only offer solutions when you understand their specific issue.
“One way a salesperson can differentiate him or herself from their competitors is to ask high-value, thought-provoking questions,” says Kelley Robertson from Fearless Selling. “Most salespeople THINK they do an effective job…but the reality is that most fail to ask enough deep, probing questions to really learn what the prospect needs.”
Meanwhile, sharing well-researched and genuinely useful content can help to establish staff as trusted advisers or position them as industry experts. During sales training, you may also be able to discuss unique methods of reaching out to prospects, perhaps via email or even snail mail, in order to catch them by surprise.
Sell Based on Value, Not Price
Finally, many people think the best way to beat a competitor is to undercut them on price – and in some situations it can be – but this is sometimes impossible and can often lead to a race to the bottom, where both you and the competition suffer. Instead of focusing purely on price, try to think about value instead.
Value based selling could mean throwing sweeteners into deals, but it can also be achieved through pure customer service. According to Oracle, 81 percent of consumers will pay more to guarantee good service, with overall customer experience, access to information and helpful answers among the biggest drivers for increased spending.
Maersk Line, a company based in Denmark, added value to their offering by focusing on reliability in an industry where 50 percent of shipments did not arrive as scheduled. The business switched to a system where shipments would leave from the same port, at the same time every day, delivering 95 percent of products as scheduled. Maersk told Forbes they were able to achieve a 350 percent ROI in just 11 months as a result.
Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global sales training and customer experience company. It specialises in providing exceptional sales training courses and helps organisations develop business strategies to achieve sales success. Monika enjoys sharing her insight and thoughts to provide better leadership skills and sales executive training.