Imagine this scenario: you are a salesperson having a drink with a friend who works for a competitor. Your friend is also a salesperson, and is lamenting how every time she approaches a potential client’s office, she sees a “No solicitors, please” sign on the door. So she turns away and heads to the next lead on her list, only to find the same situation. You feel sorry for her and suggest that she might be approaching the wrong type of customer, and you ask whom she has visited recently. She lists several company names, and to your amazement, they are all clients that you were successful within the past few months. However, you had no trouble and never experienced the “No Solicitors” sign.
This scenario would be unfortunate for your friend, but wouldn’t it make your job as a salesperson much easier? It would suggest that you effectively found a way to block the competition from entering your deals.
If you fully understand how your competitor is going to approach a deal, you can disarm their positioning before they even arrive at your customer. This is assuming, of course, that you get there first. If you arrive at a potential customer’s door after your competition, you may have a little more of an uphill battle, but it can still be achievable if you know what your competitor’s strategy is. Having effective competitive positioning is one thing that will help bring the scenario above to life.
One of the challenges between marketing and sales in many companies is that marketing teams tend to focus more on how they market their own product, and they leave their sales teams blind to the competition. When first meeting a potential client, it is incredibly useful to understand how competitors are going to try to position themselves. If you know what they will claim are their advantages, as well as how they might try to de-position your product, you can set a bias in the customer’s mind before you even finish your discussion with him or her. That bias is what will turn into the “No solicitors, please” sign on the customer’s door. Selling isn’t just about convincing your customer that you have the best solution to their problem, but it also involves proving to them why the competitors do not have an adequate solution. This doesn’t mean you have to bash your competition. In fact, with the proper competitive positioning guidance, a skilled salesperson can set a customer’s bias against the competition without ever mentioning the competitor’s name.
Our recent white paper titled “Creating Effective Competitive Positioning” (which can be found here) provides a methodology of how to come up with material that will prepare your sales teams to set that bias with the customer. It defines a process of evaluating your own positioning as well as that of your competitors and gives tips on how to keep the material updated and relevant.
So next time you visit a potential client, make sure you have an effective competitive positioning strategy. When you leave their office, you can turn around and see that “No Soliciting” sign go up just before your competitor walks in.