Every sales deal today is really a competitive sales engagement. It is tempting to think that a customer is only considering your product or service. But with the ease of finding out information on the Internet, every customer is researching not just your company, but also your competitors. The fact is that salespeople have to face competition, one way or another, in every single deal they encounter. So why do many companies make this a difficult process? Salespeople frequently do not have the right competitive sales tools or easy access to competitive sales guidance. Most of the time they have to hunt this information down on their own or build it from scratch.
If this sounds familiar in your company, here are four ways you can alleviate the stress of competitive sales.
1. CENTRALIZE YOUR COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE
One major challenge that sales and marketing people face is that they don’t know where to go to for the competitive information they need. Many companies have islands of competitive data—each business unit might have it’s own internal website or Sharepoint site; data might be stored in different people’s e-mail boxes, etc. If people don’t know where to –find- competitive information, they also don’t know where to –report- new intelligence that they discover, and critical information can be quickly lost. By providing a centralized database of intelligence, you can make it easier to track, find, and process information about competitors and competitive market events.
2. STANDARDIZE COMPETITIVE CONTENT.
Salesperson Jim goes to the centralized CI website and downloads a competitive sales guide for his Widget product. He finds that it has information about the competitors’ pricing and features. The next day, Jim needs to know features of a competitor’s Button product, so he downloads a competitive sales guide for his Button product. However, instead of finding pricing and features, the Button “competitive sales guide” has an overview of the competitor’s financials and their marketing messages. Now Jim does not know what to expect the next time he downloads a competitive sales guide, and his job has become more frustrating and time-consuming. Make it easy for your salespeople to know what to expect by using standard templates and definitions for your competitive sales content. If a salesperson knows what kinds of documents are available and exactly what to expect from the content, it will be much easier to prepare for a competitive sales deal.
3. PROVIDE GUIDANCE THAT CAN BE EASILY CUSTOMIZED.
Every salesperson has experienced this problem: she needs to make a presentation to a customer tomorrow. What does she do? She clicks to the marketing team’s website and gets the latest product presentation. But once she has it, she finds she has to modify it to be tailored to her specific deal. Different competitors in a deal and different customer needs will change how a product or service has to be positioned in a sale. Using Powerpoint, Excel, and other tools are good for communicating information, but they do not easily adjust to different selling scenarios. Make sure your sales teams have a way to get information that can be easily modified to fit different scenarios. Compelligence is an example of a system that allows salespeople to get information tailored to their specific deal without having to request help from the content owners.
4. MAKE COMMUNICATION EASY.
Salespeople can be a great source of competitive intelligence: they hear first-hand what customers are saying; they know why customers are or are not buying products; they know what product marketing messages do or do not work; they hear rumors about the competitor’s products and companies, etc. The problem in many companies, however, is that there is not an effective way for salespeople to report this information back to someone who can actually do something with it. Sure, they can use e-mail—if they know the proper person to contact. In many large companies, it may not be readily known who that proper person is. Make sure your salespeople have the right tools and access to report competitive intelligence not only to their immediate sales groups, but also to the people who can make the necessary changes to products, marketing material, and strategy. In turn, once that information is processed, make sure it gets back to sales teams so they can update their sales strategies.