For many companies, competition, both domestic and international, has become fiercer, necessitating explicit strategies for differentiating and remaining competitive. As an outcome of several trends, including globalization, competition grows when organizations become more similar, regardless of how many players are on the filed.
Organizations know they are in a serious competitive environment, whether there is only one other competitor or a thousand competitors, if they cannot differentiate themselves – that is, by adding more value at a lower cost than the other guys.Basically, the only way to grow is to take something away from the competition. Today, more than ever, more people are after less business and companies need a bigger piece of a smaller pie.
Today, all players, prospective clients and true competitors alike have access to much of the same knowledge and many of the same resources. Furthermore, yesterday’s competitive differentiators, such as price or securing a presence on the Internet and the ability to deliver via the Web, are no longer unique points of differences. This has, if anything levelled the playing filed in many industries.
Competition no longer comes in the form of other organizations that do the same thing and sell to the same markets you might be after. Increasingly, organizations are competing against their distributors or agents, against companies providing ‘substitute’ products and services and internally across their own channels to market in the form of channel conflict. Competition may come in different forms, but identifying competitive sources and managing their impact through the strategies we discuss here will help organizations to differentiate themselves in this ever expanding marketplace.
If you are lucky enough to meet with the CEO or final decision maker of the corporation you are selling to, great! Get in there, do your thing, be trustworthy, and seal the deal. However, if you know that this leader or decision maker is going to be meeting with your competition on Friday, you might want to give them a call late Friday and ask him or her how the meeting went. Something simple like, “Hi [customer’s name] how are you doing today?”
Customer answers in the affinitive and you proceed with what can only be called a bold move on your part. “Listen, I was wondering how your meeting with XYZ, 123 and ABC Companies went this week? How did you feel about each one of them?” Hopefully the prospective client will say something like, ABC was just not what he was looking for and that it’s between you, 123 and XYZ. You would say, “Good, now what happened with XYZ?
What did you not like about them? Can you tell me specifics?” Here is where you can really learn a lot, one simpler question: “Now [customer’s name], if we weren’t in the running and it was just 123 and XYZ, which one would get your business?”
This is a powerful question because you must take a risk to ask it. Should you be afraid to ask this? Why? If you have a good chemistry with this customer and the answer will help you immensely in the sales process.
By Vanessa Brown