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Tennessean Column- Sunday, February 22nd

Posted on: February 23

Author: Tom Black
Tennessean Column- Sunday, February 22nd

Beating the Competition

If you’re in sales, you face competition every day. Some salespeople hope their prospects will never hear about their competition. Some salespeople hope the competition just won’t show up, while others, the great salespeople, welcome competition.

In sports, there are no world records and no unbelievable performances without competition. The same is true in sales. Competition makes the free enterprise system work. Good, honest competition makes us all better and ultimately the prospect/customer wins. I hope everyone that reads this understands the ultimate value of the competition.

Now, how do you surpass your competition? Here are some ideas that have proven to work and continue to work:

First, know the competition. Learn everything you can. Visit their websites regularly. There is always a lot of good information there.

It happens all the time, I ask a salesperson if they have been on their competitor’s website and they sheepishly say “no.” Don’t be that salesperson. Look on LinkedIn. Search by company name and read the bios. You can learn a lot that way. Do a Google search. Read the articles and press releases. Everything public about your competition is available on the internet. Be an expert on what is public.

There are also non-public ways to learn about your competition. When a salesperson leaves the competition, it’s a good time to pick their brain. Don’t be afraid to call them. After they have left the competition, they are usually ready to talk about their former employer.

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers for information too. You can ask about pricing, delivery, to see their proposals, etc. Not every client or salesperson will give you information, but you will get nothing if you don’t ask. And just because one says no, it doesn’t mean the next one won’t say yes. Keep asking. Everything you can learn about the competition will better prepare you to win in a competitive situation.

Second, outthink the competition. In a small town in Kansas, there were three shoe stores side by side that took up the whole block. People came from miles around to buy shoes. One day the owner of the store on one end of the block put up a sign that said “Lowest Prices in Town.” In response the owner of the store on the other end of the block put up a sign that said “80% Discount.” The man who owned the shoe store in the middle was frantic about how to match his competition. A few days later, he put up a sign that said “Main Entrance.”

He out-thought his competition. By knowing how the competition sells, you can outthink them. Ask every prospect to see the competition’s proposal. You are at a competitive disadvantage if you can’t compare “apples to apples.” Tell every prospect that it’s in their and their company’s best interest to let both sides compare apples to apples. Competing in secret helps no one. It’s why there is “discovery” in legal cases so there can be a fair trial.

Tell your prospect he can only get the best deal if there is open competition. Some of your prospects will resist because they have another agenda, but the logic is irrefutable.

Third, out-serve them. Sales will always be service. Your prospect is judging, among other things, how the service will be after the sale. You help him make that decision during the sales process. Follow up properly. Get answers to the prospect’s questions quickly, touch base frequently during the sales process. By out-serving the competition during the sales process, you will win many times.

Finally, learn about the prospect’s business. CSO Insights says, “Executives value having business conversations with salespeople four times more than product conversations.” They go on to report that “only 24% of salespeople they meet understand their business.”

So you will immediately differentiate yourself from most competition by understanding your prospect’s business and engaging your prospect in a meaningful conversation.

These four methods will help you win in every situation unless your competition is as good as you, and then you’ll have to figure out your next strategy to move ahead. By the way, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work.


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