Mark Shonka

Sales Tip: Identifying the Competition

As sales and relationship management professionals, we are trying to steer customers and prospects to make decisions in our favor. These decisions will allow us to help them drive important outcomes. Gaining these commitments is rarely easy, and in many cases, we have to overcome serious challenges.

One of the challenges we face is the presence of competition. The point of this Tip is to make sure we broaden our view of the competition we face.

It's all too easy to restrict our view of "competition" to traditional competitors (other companies in our industry selling similar solutions to our own). Consider these other forms of competition:

  • Disruptive competition - a solution that takes a different form than the traditional solutions that have been used to address specific issues
  • Non-traditional competitors - companies that have not typically been seen as competitors to us
  • Internal customer operations - people or departments within the customer organization that are currently performing the function we would like to take over
  • Individuals within the customer - the person/people who made the decision to work with the incumbent provider in past years
  • Individuals within our own team - in complex organizations, there could be competing divisions or factions that want different outcomes

What can we do to maximize our odds for success?

  • Avoid making assumptions.
  • Do your homework. Ask good questions to understand the buying process the customer is going through, and the key players that are involved in the process.
  • Develop coach relationships with people who can "give it to you straight".

One of the most important things we can do is to clearly and effectively identify our true competitor in any given opportunity. The better we do this, the more likely we are to create a powerful and effective competitive strategy.

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