Open Season on the Competition
Is there a Science to Salesmanship? I think so. I have spent the last 27 years studying it. I love the topic of competition, because it helps me reinforce many things that I learned over the years. Some of these lessons inevitably come to us the hard way. However, today I approach things differently and know that my competition is always beatable. My hope in this article is to share some insights and strategies that work for me, and help you and your company beat the competition more effectively no matter what!
To be unbeatable you have to project a force of professional confidence and invincibility. You must believe that you’re invincible 100% of the time. I have done this for so long, that I know in my heart that I am unbeatable. There is no question in my mind that I am the best at what I do. Furthermore it’s part of the professional image I want to project every day. Every time the competition comes lurking in my neck of the woods – good luck to him / her as they will never figure me out or see me coming. So how do I do this?
My only Competition is Myself!
I only compete with myself. I am constantly challenging myself to be the best and better than anyone or company that is in my space. I always engage in behaviors that I know my competition will never do or do sustainably over a long period of time. I set an extremely high standard of professionalism that wears out most people. I always put the customer first, and do whatever is necessary to take care of my customers better than anyone ever will. I will always have better Polish – Finesse – Presence – Personality – Caring – Humility – Follow up and Ethics than any competitor.
My goal is to develop a very close customer relationship. I make a list of every behavior I want to exhibit, that supports this idea. Today, I have many customers that I still talk to 15 years later. My list of activities is everything that touches the customer experience. So few people take this approach and it immediately knocks out most competition. Think about how you can map out your strategy differently. I take an enormous amount of time to think through my steps. I write them down and validate my assumptions before acting. I write a business plan for every segment and every prospect. In the process of execution, if I make a mistake then I try to quickly learn from my error and rebound decisively.
Never Compete on Price
There are competitors that dog us every which way in the market place. Let’s say you represent a company that is a leader in your respective space. In this case the more successful the company, the more likely you have more formidable competition than other companies. In the situation no matter what tactic you take, the competition always has a similar approach or me too product. I think the most often time this comes up is when it’s competing on price. The customer perceives the product or service you sell as a commodity and wants to engage competitors in price wars. However, when it comes to competing on price, there are no winners – except the customer!
Customers of course love this. Companies fighting for the same prize. I prefer to find other ways to differentiate my value from the competitor and change the game. In fact I don’t want to ever earn the business because I have a better price. Why? Because in the end, there will always be a better price out there another year from now, and you will be right back to where you started. I have seen this happen more times than not and I am sure you have too.
Lazy & Complacent Competition
Although, I cannot speak for every sales professional in the world today, many salespeople are lazy and complacent or at the very least easily distracted. Also there are many demanding companies that the masses work for. These companies want their sales people selling all of the time. The goal is to touch as many customers as possible. So sales at many companies is more of a numbers game. The more people you pitch, the more you will likely sell, kind of tactics. Unfortunately for the competition, but fortunately for me, their approach does not foster strong lasting relationships. It also results in poor closing ratios. an industry average is 20% – 25%. So that means that most salespeople close 1 out of 4 or 5 prospects. I don’t like those odds, and I’d rather carefully select large more challenging prospects that other companies wouldn’t likely avoid or are unable to figure out. I determine customers and alliances that will be best for the long term and will invariably appreciate someone like me, more than any competitor or company. I gauge the potential sales of each prospect very carefully.
I spend more time with each customer and get to know them extremely well. So well, that I end up knowing more about my customers, then they may know about themselves or their company. I learn their business model and understand their competition. This helps me become an indispensable ally to the customer, helping them in any way possible. In return I get much closer to my customers. I do this because I care about my customers. I enjoy building these relationships and find them rewarding. This allows me to get high wide and deep within their organization. I always look for ways to better serve my customers. So well that they would never consider doing business with someone else. This strategy has helped me maintain a closing ratio of 60%+.
Be the most professional executive in your space
This sounds simple, but if you do this all of the time, then you will likely snuff out at least 50% of your competition at first glance. Why? because salespeople are often lazy and complacent. In fact as the companies get smaller and smaller depending upon the industry, the more I find this. Along with laziness and complacency also comes a lot of people who think that this brand of professionalism is too much damn work!
Patience I am patient – very patient. I am very patient with long sales cycles and customer buying patterns. However, the competition is usually not so patient. Most sales people and competitors want the business right now and this impatience dictates their actions, strategies and often mistakes. I use this environmental factor to my advantage. My patience makes me far more desirable to do business with, because whatever the customer’s timeframe is, I will wait until they are ready to do business their way.
My experience is that it’s rare that any salesperson or other company will use all of these same approaches and strategies. The customer will always believe that I am more approachable – more professional – and better to do business with than anyone I compete with. In my world, I do a lot of strategy work for a variety of companies and see these same issues emerge constantly. These strategies really help set me apart from other sales professionals. This is also just a short list of topics in the discussion on competition. Certainly many a book can be written on this subject. Take a step back and revisit your business and see if you can employ some of these strategies and strengthen your unbeatable mindset. The possibilities are endless.
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