How to Beat the Competition in Sales
Sales is a competitive industry – whether you’re competing against yourself to meet your quota, going head to head with your colleagues for the big prize in a contest, or facing off against your industry rivals, you’re going to always be striving to beat someone.
So, if we can’t win the deal solely on the basis of a superior product, we have to figure out other ways to set ourselves apart. This is where competitive selling comes into play.
Think about your standard sales interaction – your customer comes to you as a potential solution to their problem – but you know for a fact they’ve done their homework and aren’t just considering you, but your major competitors as well.
So, how can you win the sale?
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Common Competitive Selling
When most sales pros realize they’re dealing with a customer who’s also considering a competitor, there are often one of three responses:
1 Trash the Competition
One of the most common responses sees the salesperson going off on a rant about how the competitor is terrible.
This has been a really popular tactic in automobile sales for years – you mention you’re looking at a BMW at the Mercedes dealer and the sales guy will then spend 30 minutes explaining why the BMW is likely to blow up before you drive it off the lot.
Needless to say, this is not a good approach. Your relationship with the competition doesn’t have to be adversarial. You’re both trying to grow your industry, increase awareness, and so on.
Plus, customers seem to respond better when you don’t tell them they’re stupid for considering another option (which is essentially what you’re doing when you trash the competition).
2 A Battle of Features
Another common response is for the salesperson to compare their product to the competition feature by feature. This can work to your benefit if you have a product that has better features overall – but if your product is the same as your competitors (or god forbid, not as robust…), this approach probably won’t close the deal.
3 Ignore the Competition
In the final approach, we can just ignore our competitors. The assumption is the customer is here to hear about your product, and will go to the competitor to hear about theirs.
This is probably the most likely to work approach – but it’s still not the optimal response because you’re missing out on an opportunity to connect with the customer by talking (and not trashing…) your competition’s product. Many customers will appreciate your honesty. So be honest.
Winning with Competitive Selling
Instead of those responses, here’s how to gain a competitive edge that will find you closing more deals and turning those sales into long-term customer relationships.
1 Learn the Lay of the Land
As a salesperson, you have to know about your products. But to truly gain a competitive advantage, you should also know about the other companies in your space, their products, the pros and cons of them, and so on. In fact, if you don’t know as much about the competition as you do your own company and offerings, you’re missing an opportunity.
Think of it this way – when a customer approaches you, you can not only highlight your own products, but you can potentially talk about all of your competitors in the space, pointing out areas where your offering is better.
Many times, customers will come to respect a salesperson who’s knowledgeable – helping them (again, without being negative about your competitors) can be a huge bonus – but if you aren’t familiar with the other people in your space, you can’t seize this opportunity.
2 Look for Clues
When talking to your potential customer, listen to what they’re telling you. If they’re talking about a competitor’s product, they’re giving you insights into what they’re thinking about.
Knowledge is power in sales – and by simply talking less and listening more you can learn things about your potential customer that he may not actually say to you directly.
3 It’s Not a Race to the Bottom
When a salesperson finds themselves in a competitive sales situation, all too often their go to solution is to simply lower the price.
Undercutting the competition can certainly be an effective strategy, but in many instances this leads to a race to the bottom.
At some point, you simply can’t cut your price any lower. And if your competition somehow manages to beat you? Then your customers are going to wind up there in the end anyway.
Plus, this race to the bottom mentality devalues your product – if you’re willing to drop huge chunks off the price, what does this tell the customer? Either your product isn’t very good or it’s extremely overpriced. Do you want to send this message?
4 Think Big Picture
When you’re in the heat of battle, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus solely on making the sale.
However, we’re not just trying to close deals – we’re trying to foster long-term relationships with customers.
As such, it’s often a viable strategy to talk about your brand, your company, and your business ideology.
Customers aren’t solely driven by the best price – in a close competition, they may well go with a company they feel aligns with their own values.
5 Provide Social Proof
One thing that can really turn the tide in your favor is social proof. If you can point to the other big clients and customers you’ve worked with, it demonstrates the value of your company and product to prospective customers.
Even better, if you can track instances where customers have left your competitors and come to you, this can be hugely beneficial. Don’t lie – and don’t make up data – but remember that your past successes can pave the way to your next big win.
6 Be a Good Human
One of the unstated yet recurring ideas in these points has been that you should not only be a knowledgeable salesperson – you should be a good person in general.
Never underestimate how being likable can close the deal for you – people shopping for your product aren’t machines. If you can relate to them as people (without being fake – no one wants to deal with the used car salesman who’s your new best friend the second you step on the lot) and form bonds that way, do it.
There are customers who will buy from companies and salespeople they like and trust, even when there’s a potentially more affordable option available.
Competitive Selling in Action
Now that we’ve highlighted the key strategies behind succeeding in a competitive selling environment, let’s talk about the sales process itself.
1 Understand Their Needs
The first step in differentiating yourself from the competition involves talking to your customers just like always.
During this phase you can learn if they’re considering the competition (which is good to know), but beyond that, you can understand their needs and pain points.
This is sales 101 – but the insight here can be invaluable in a competitive selling situation. Once you understand the problems, your sales process can become more consultative – meaning you can diagnose other issues and showcase how your product can make those problems a thing of the past.
2 Demonstrate Your Value
At the end of the day, success in a competitive sales environment can hinge on a wide range of factors – but one thing every customer interaction should feature is your salesperson demonstrating value.
This is achieved in a number of different ways – you can demonstrate product value, you can demonstrate the brand and company value we discussed earlier, or you can connect with personal values.
The goal here is to make an appeal to something beyond the analytical brain that looks at every potential purchase as a dollars and cents proposition.
However you approach this point, make sure your potential customer comes away with the belief that your value not only aligns with theirs, but that you have the skill, knowledge, and products to help them achieve their business goals.
3 Use Your Selling Technique to Set Yourself Apart
And finally, we build on the last point by not only demonstrating our value, but by using our selling techniques to set ourselves apart from the competition.
As a sales professional, you have a full arsenal of tools at your disposal to help you convert leads to customers, and you may have to dig deep into your bag of tricks if your competition has a better or more affordable product.
One surefire advantage that can quickly help you gain an advantage is using sales enablement software. These amazing programs can not only help you better qualify your leads so you focus on the ones with the best chance of converting, they also use complex Artificial Intelligence to help you find the best way to gain a competitive edge. And since they’re always learning, each new opportunity gives them more insight into how to help you achieve your goals – selling more product.
Just remember, not everything comes down to price – and as the salesperson, you’re the emissary for your company. The potential customer’s interactions with you should set an example for them of what it’s like to work with your company. If you can give them that personal touch and use your best techniques, you will often be able to overcome a competitor with a better price or slightly better product offering.
Remember, as a salesperson you have the power to make a deal happen – don’t sell yourself short.
Sales can be a tough business even on the best of days. It occasionally feels more like a roller coaster ride than a career. Not everyone is suited for a career in the field, but if you’re a person with personality who likes a little healthy (and let’s be honest, occasionally unhealthy…) competition, then this could be a great field for you.
The keys to coming out ahead in a competitive sales environment are pretty simple when you break them down – simply put the customer first, don’t denigrate your competition, and find ways to showcase your value without immediately dropping your price and you’re off to a good start.
Following the advice and tips in this article will help you navigate the tricky waters of selling against competitors. With time, and some practice, you’ll be winning far more often than you’re losing.
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