The science and technology marketplace has long served up a dynamic and competitive landscape. In fact, with a boom of start-ups driven by the fast pace of technological advances, competition for sales is ever more fierce. And long-standing businesses aren’t immune from fresh competitors snapping at their heels and making dents in their sales figures.
“I see it time and time again. Businesses who have enjoyed the lion’s share of the market, with little to no competition, suddenly find themselves in turmoil. A rival company has launched a competitive product. It’s modern. It’s cheaper. And it’s sexier. Sales teams who have long reveled in the ease of a monopoly have suddenly landed in the world of competitive selling – and they’re not prepared.” – Pru Layton, Senior Trainer at george james ltd.
Don't get down and out
If your business has primarily been selling with technical prowess, your sales team have probably focused on the technical sale and perhaps not on the added value. Ultimately, they might not have had to work too hard to win sales. So when they find themselves losing out to a new competitor it can be disheartening. What’s more, they may not have refined the skills needed to win in a competitive environment. If this situation sounds familiar, it’s not time to just throw in the towel, it’s time to get ready for battle.
Find the fun
“Winning in a competitive marketplace is so much sweeter than simply order taking” says Pru. It’s like the feeling of watching your team win after a hard fought sports match. Or reaching the summit of a mountain when you’ve worked your legs and your lungs to their limit. The victory is sweeter when it’s hard fought.
Pru explains “As a sales professional, we have to enjoy competitive selling. If you go into a sales conversation defeated, your prospect will feel it. You’re the person who makes the difference. How you speak and interact with prospects is your business’s biggest asset.”
So how do you provide the right environment for your sales team to thrive when competition is fierce? The first step is to get prepared.
Know your market
You’ve been in the game for a long time so you think you know you’re market like the back of your hand? You’ll need to know it better if you want to find your sweet spot. There will inevitably be customer profiles that fit your product or service perfectly. The further away you get from these customers or applications, the harder the sell will be. So why make the sale more difficult than it needs to be?
Take the time to fully understand your target market and put together an ideal, best, or perfect customer profile. It will show you where you are most likely to win sales and thus, how to invest your time wisely.
Pru explains “When I was selling graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometer (GFAAS) – an instrument used to measure or quantify elements at trace and ultra-trace levels – our competitor brought out a new feature. It was a little camera that checked that the autosampler dispensed the sample correctly. Our system just used a little dental mirror.”
“The camera was analytically pointless but fantastic for demonstrations. Thus, it was also great for teaching labs so I knew we wouldn’t win here. By identifying this, I was able to give more time to sales opportunities where we would be more likely to win.”
“The lesson? Stick with your core, don’t work on the periphery, and your sales figures will thank you”.
Keep your ‘enemies’ close
Your competitors aren’t just going to go away.
Knowing your competitors business, their product or service, and their differentiators is essential if you’re going to beat them. If you know your competitors well, you won’t be panicked or flustered when a prospect raises their advantages with you. In fact, you’ll be prepared to counter, minimise or deal with it – preferably with proof!
“It’s perfectly fine that your competitors have elements to their product or service that sound more attractive than yours. It’s more than likely you offer benefits that are better than theirs. Think about how you can maximise your unique selling points.” says Pru.
There’s no doubt about it, in a more competitive marketplace you’re going to face more objections. Good competitors will plant seeds of doubt about your product or service in the prospects’ mind – and prospects are likely to raise these with you during sales conversations.
Handling these objections can be a daunting prospect for many sales professionals. So, in the next blogs we’ll be talking about objections, why they’re the best thing to hear from your prospects and how to handle them successfully. Who knows, you may even learn to enjoy them!
For more information on complex sales, selling successfully in a competitive marketplace handling objections, and much more, take a look at our tactical selling skills open program.
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