Sales Skills: Selling against the Competition – 4 Key Principles...

Unless you are lucky enough to work for a particularly innovative start-up, chances are that you and your business have plenty of competitors.

This shouldn’t come as a great surprise: the market economy is based on a degree of competition, and healthy competition is supposed to encourage companies to do their very best for their customers.

But competition remains an uncomfortable fact. Particularly for salespeople, who find themselves situated on the cutting edge of business to business competition. In fact, with product and service quality becoming more and more alike, salespeople are increasing likely to find themselves personally responsible for differentiating their business as the best among many.

So in this article, I’d like to give salespeople a few key principles to stick to when selling against competition. By sticking to these basic principles you should be able to increase the likelihood that the customer will choose you as their supplier.

1. Don’t always assume you are up against competition

The first thing to say is that you shouldn’t always assume you are up against competition, even if you are in a competitive market. Business is often lost by the salesperson because he or she is all too aware of the competition and causes the prospect to search for alternative suppliers with the phrase: ‘Are you seeing anybody else?’

You should never use this phrase as the prospect thinks - ‘maybe I should!’

Instead, if you want to test whether or not you are up against competition ask: ‘Have you done anything about this so far?’ or ‘How far have you got with this?’ or ‘What plans have you got for solving this situation?’

2. Know who your competitors are

You should never mention your competitors by name (it’s free advertising) but you should know what other options the prospect is likely to come across, should you find yourself in a competitive situation.

It helps to be prepared, and knowing about your competitors – including how they might promote and sell their product or service against yours – will help you to prepare your best case. So don’t act surprised when a prospect refers to a competitor or to a particular competitor’s name; instead be confident about what you have to offer.

3. Establish your Unique Selling Points (USPs)

Connected to the last point, is the importance of establishing your USPs. Selling against competition is all about selling the difference. What sets you apart from your competitors? What is unique about your organisation, including the customer service that you personally are able to offer?

The aim here is to take your product or service out of competition by accentuating the difference. You should seek to build desire for the difference that sets you apart. This doesn’t mean criticising or knocking your competitors – which often seems unprofessional – but emphasising what you already know sets you apart.

4. Wherever possible, don’t refer to your ‘competitors’ at all

While you probably do know about other suppliers who you might fairly describe internally as ‘competitors’, you should try wherever possible to avoid using this language when speaking with prospects. The fact that you have ‘competitors’ implies that there is a ‘competition’, and draws the prospect into a role which involves choosing a ‘winner’ from among various ‘competing’ alternatives on a level playing field.

So if you must talk about other suppliers don’t call them ‘our competitors’ or ‘the competition’. Instead remember your USPs – it is not apples for apples. If you must talk about other suppliers say, ‘we recognise that there are other suppliers in the marketplace’, and go on to talk about what sets you apart.

Get ahead of the competition with Sales Training

At LDL we provide sales training courses to help individuals and organisations sell against competition more effectively. If you or your organisation are interested in finding out more, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
If you prefer to keep reading, there are many more fantastic resources on the On Target website, some of which I’ve written. Try: “How to Make a Sales Call: 4 Tips for New Starters” or “What’s Your Sales Training Process? 3 Steps to Getting the Most out of New Recruits”.

A guest article by Tom Fielder - Marketing Manager at LDL, Leadership Development Ltd. LDL is a management training and sales training consultancy based in London. Tom researches and writes for LDL about fresh approaches to training, with a particular focus on its specialist areas.

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