What's with the competition What's with you

February 15, 2009
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“Competition is healthy! There’s plenty of room for everyone!”

Huh? Who ever said that? No one from New Jersey!

The truth is most people would rather see their competition die, or at least go out of business and never be heard from again.

Here’s the challenge: How does a salesperson address the issue of the competition in these times? I wrote about it in “The Sales Bible” in 1994, revised it in 2002, and revised it again in 2008’s new edition. But that was before the bottom fell out of the economy.

Here’s the reality: Sales are down for everyone, and there are fewer prospects for new sales. Consequently, the hunt for more sales, new sales, and especially take-away sales has intensified.

You can no longer afford to “lose one on price,” and move to the next. The one you lost may be the only one this week, or this month.

Here’s the gross reality: You must know that your competition is having a meeting across town right now. They’re planning to cut their prices, steal your customers and bury you. They’re gunning for your best customers.

It’s a war that’s fought battle by battle, customer by customer, action by action — until the last salesman or saleswoman is standing. You’re the warrior. Winner take all.

The sales weapons to deploy in your competitive war are:

  • Value offered in terms of the customer.

  • Proven differentiation between you and others.

  • A quality standard that includes the word BEST.

  • Memorable service.

  • Technology. Be the highest.

  • Web presence. Be the best.

  • Timely/rapid response. Be the fastest.

  • Friendly people. Be the friendliest.

  • Availability. 24.7.365 is the minimum acceptable standard.

  • Knowledgeable people. The most knowledgeable.

  • Helpful people. The most helpful.

  • Reputation in the marketplace or community. The best reputation. A long track record of success.

  • Existing customers who speak on your behalf. NOTE: They’re the ones that create your reputation.

  • Oh yeah, and sometimes price.

And here are the strategies to master: 

Speak kindly of your competition, or say nothing.

Respect them, and others will respect you.

If others speak negatively, do not join in.

Know their weaknesses, but focus on your strength and value.

Know why they won when you should have.

Know how they speak about you and build response into your presentation.

Know how to beat them until they hate you.

Your victory is when you get the order.

What you say and the way you say it weighs heavily in the competitive wars. Here are some clues:

  • Never talk down the competition.

  • Never use condescending language.

  • Never “warn” the customer.

IDEA: My friend Ray Leone teaches salespeople to refer to the competition as “industry standard.”

It’s brilliant. He says, “Industry standard is xxxxx, but we are xxxx+yyyyy.” Very powerful.

What you say about your competition is a true reflection of your persona. And even more powerful, it creates one of the key elements of customers’ perceptions of you as a person, part of their value judgment as they look to move forward — with or without you.

Your job is not to down others; your job is to get to know the customer, develop rapport, create open communication, give and get truth, establish believability, gain trust and prove your value in terms of them.

Interestingly, you do all this by asking customers for their knowledge of your product or service, their past experiences, their history, and their personal knowledge and wisdom. The competition will come up in THEIR conversations. All you have to say is, “Wow, what happened?” and the rest of the story will flow.

Wrong thinking: Many people think that their product or service is becoming a commodity. Anyone who believes this is a weak salesperson. Hopefully, your competition feels this way.

Secret weapon: testimonials. Let your customers talk about their experiences with competitive products and services. Find customers that used the competition and switched to you. Find a customer who left you, went to the competition and came back. Customers can say anything they want about the competition — you cannot. When you talk about the competition, it’s selling. When customers talk, it’s proof.

REALITY: Testimonials will beat the competition when you can’t.

Final warning: Do not use the words “save money.” If you believe you’re less than others, use the word “profit.”

Free GitBit: “Competitive advantage” is one of the least understood concepts in sales wars. If you want the real definition, go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first-time visitor, and enter the word COMPETE in the GitBit box. Jeffrey Gitomer can be at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail salesman@gitomer.com

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