I had an interesting conversation last week. I was talking to a prospective client and toward the end of the conversation, he said, “You should know that I’m talking to one of your competitors, too. Would you like to know who it is?” I think my response surprised him.
I said, “You’re welcome to tell me if you like, but it won’t change my behavior. My offerings are dependent on my clients, not my competitors.” He was surprised by this, and I understand why. In sales, we are constantly having our competitors being used as leverage against us by customers who want to gain better pricing, terms, etc., and a potential service provider that won’t play that game is anathema to many people. But, why did I say that? Therein lies a window into my philosophy, as well as some hard questions you might want to ask yourself.
I find that too many companies are too focused on the competition and need to focus on the customer. This shows itself in any number of ways. Below are some of the most common examples:
When a sales manager demands to know “who we’re up against” before issuing pricing, you have a problem. I’ve seen that in a number of my clients, and I always ask the same question: “Why?” Dithering over pricing based on your competition is one of the dumbest and least customer-friendly things you can do. You know what your costs are. You also know what your acceptable profit margin is. And you know or should know, what the common market pricing for your services is. So, why not offer a deal you are comfortable with? If your pricing is dependent upon having fewer competitors for the business, aren’t you incenting your customers to bring in multiple vendors?
Proposal presentation strategy
Recently, I was presenting a training program when a salesperson said, “I always like to be the last person to present my proposal. That way they have everyone else’s numbers when I go in.” Seriously, what difference does that make? From a strategic perspective, I actually prefer to be FIRST, for a couple of reasons. First, the first person to propose is the first person to have the chance to close. I’ve seen, and sold, many deals where the second person never had a shot because the first person got the business. And second, if you’re communicating to your customer that you will have a sense of urgency in servicing the business. Focus on the customer by demonstrating that same sense of urgency when proposing the business.
I see many companies and sales teams that want to alter key pieces of the offerings. Such as product specs, service frequencies, contract terms, and more, based on who their competitors are for a given deal. This makes no sense. Value and solutions are driven by your customer’s needs, not your competitor. Focus on the customer by offering to solve your customers’ needs, and your competitors become irrelevant.
The problem with all of these approaches, and other competition-dependent sales tactics, is that you are allowing your competitors to set the arena and the rules of the game. One of my favorite sayings is, “You can’t BEAT your competitors if you’re trying to BE your competitors.” When you are as reactive to your competitors as in the examples above, you’re simply trying to be a less-effective version of your competition. And worse – your customers will sense it.
Here’s the best strategy for dealing with your competition: Act as the best possible version of YOU. Focus on the customer and their needs. And act as if your competitors don’t exist – you’ll be surprised how often this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you would like to book a program on this topic for your company, contact us today!