Bring It On: Dealing With Sales Competition
Sales trainers do well to focus on the basics, such as prospecting, presenting, answering objections, and closing the sale. In spite of this training, salespeople often struggle when they come face-to-face with the competition. The first rule of sales competition is “don’t slam your competitor,” yet many salespeople (inadvertent though it may be) do just that. They don’t say, “Their product is inferior!” or “Their service is horrible!” or “Have you seen their consumer ratings?” but they still become critical of the competitor in a slightly more subtle fashion. The first thing out of the salesperson’s mouth will be a veiled (or maybe not so veiled) argument about why buying the competitor is a bad decision. The next statement will be a point about why their product or service is a superior offering, usually backed with scads of data, proof statements, etc.
Most salespeople use the following strategy when they are competing for business. First, they attack the competitor’s offering. Second, they point out the best features of their product or service. Often the conversation is “feature-focused” but it can also cover topics such as the company, service, and other details. The problem with this approach is twofold: 1.
By slamming the competitor, they are telling the prospect that he or she is making a bad decision. Nobody likes to be told they are making a bad decision! 2. If the prospect has bought from this company in the past, not only is the salesperson saying the prospect made a bad decision, but the salesperson may be attacking a competitor with whom the prospect has developed a relationship. The end result is the prospect may never really hear the benefits and features of the salesperson’s product / service, because they tune you out for having criticized their judgment and reasoning, and possibly a friend of theirs who is your competitor. A better model for competitive selling doesn’t slam or attack the competition, but rather acknowledges them professionally, with the salesperson approaching the competition objection from an entirely different perspective. An example of a shortened version of the conversation may sound something like this: “Mrs. Prospect I am very familiar with XYZ Inc. and their product. XYZ is a good company, and they do some things very well, such as [example.] My company and our products aren’t always the best fit all the time.
In this case, I believe your needs can best be met by OUR product / service. Let me tell you why… ” This approach doesn’t slam your competitor, but rather acknowledges the fact that they are a good solution for some problems. (Incidentally, you don’t have to go overboard here, but softly acknowledge your competitor’s niche.) You also acknowledge that your offerings don’t fit all situations (NO company has products / services that are right for ALL prospects ALL of the time!) Products and services can be comparable, but there is ALWAYS a reason to do business wit YOU. This is the reason that you must have your own unique value proposition, and you make this the point of the presentation. The prospect is buying YOU. Starting your reply in this manner disarms your prospect, and tells them that you are someone who is truly a professional, well versed about the competition, and a salesperson with their best interest at heart. Best of all, it clears the way to point out your benefits and the features that support them. You sell on your merits, as opposed to the flaws of your competitor. If you are in sales, you WILL have to deal with competitors.
Separate yourself from endless stream of amateurs that bash their companies by being professional, well spoken, and EFFECTIVE. The manner in which you handle these situations will determine whether you are in the middle of the pack on your company’s production report or at the top as a true sales superstar!.