In 2021, the sales landscape is more of a battlefield than it ever has been. With competition rising in almost every conceivable field, it is only a matter of time before you find yourself in a competitive sales situation. Many salespeople shy away from these situations, but they are unavoidable and can actually be a good sign! Mentioning a competitor is a definite sign of interest from your prospect. They would never bother to bring up another option to you if they weren’t considering your product. They are, in fact, giving you a chance to convenience them to go with your product over any alternatives.
Every competitive situation will be wildly different depending on the products involved, but there are a few strategies that will work in almost any case, provided the products are relatively evenly matched.
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This is one of the fundamental ways to differentiate yourself. Find one thing (or better yet, several) that a competitor does worse than you. Then guide your prospect to that weakness, either by bringing it up directly or by ‘setting a trap’ for the competitor. You can do that by asking the prospect to bring something up to the competitor that will highlight a weakness in their product and trip them up.
Bear in mind that your competitor will probably have prepared ways to address their most glaring weaknesses and explain them away, so you should try to identify a weakness that is less obvious, ideally one they may not even be aware they have. If you highlight a weakness and they are unprepared for it when your prospect brings it up, they will lose a lot of credibility that will be difficult to regain.
You also want to guide the prospect towards your Unique Selling Point (USP). A great way to do this is to first discuss a problem or need that they may not be aware they have and that your product addresses and your competitor does not. If you come up with a legitimate problem that really affects them and that only you can solve, your competitor will have their work cut out for them. The key is to make sure it is a problem your prospect will really care about (see below).
In a competitive sales situation, speed and timing are extremely important. Your best bet is to get to your prospect before the competition does. You also want to try to differentiate yourself and eliminate competitors as soon as you can in the process. The key is to dismiss them early because the longer they remain in the mix, the more chances they will have to sell their product and undermine yours.
You are not going to change your prospect’s mind by focusing on insignificant little differences or advantages your product can give them. The things that make you stand out have to be major, like a paradigm shift- at least you should make it seem that way. The last thing you want to do is get bogged down in a back-and-forth discussion comparing individual product features. This is unpredictable territory, and you have much less control over this situation.
When it comes to beating competitors, salespeople sometimes fall into the trap of trying to list every single advantage or selling point they can think of. But overwhelming the client with endless information about your product is never the way to go. You should focus on quality over quantity, and identify the main differentiator to focus on. You want to make sure your prospect retains one key thing that sets you apart, rather than a vague collection of minor features. Don’t water down your main message with a bunch of details, as this will just become static to your product.
To pick which specific differentiator you will focus on, you need to research and understand the prospect’s company and the problems they are facing. You should also be asking well-chosen questions that get the customer to open up about their pain points. Then, focus on the one thing you do differently from the competition that your prospect will actually care about because it directly addresses their central problem. You should always think pain points, not features. If you have one differentiator that gets to the core of your customer’s problem, they won’t care about any other minor discrepancies between your products.
One practice you want to avoid at all costs is getting involved (and getting the prospect involved) in a personal battle with your competitor. Resist the temptation to take cheap jabs at your rival’s ethics or practices, even if they made unfair attacks on you. Attacking a competitor’s reputation will often have negative consequences downstream, and comes across as unprofessional to your prospects.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to competitive sales, as there are so many variables involved: the type and quality of the product, the competitor, the prospect’s needs. And sometimes your research will not be sufficient to find out everything about a customer’s offer, or you will be surprised by an unexpected disadvantage (maybe your competitor has set a trap for you- see above). This is why your reps need to have the ability to think on their feet and take control of their conversations in creative ways. Learn more about the key skills you want to identify in your salespeople here.
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