Most salespeople enjoy the thrill of the hunt for new business. Once a prospect has been identified and qualified, the sales professional must develop a strategy for earning the business. There are several points in the sales process where a Go/No Go decision must be made. The question becomes, "Is there a business opportunity here that you have a realistic chance of getting given the available resources or would these be better invested in some other opportunity?"
If you feel there is a realistic chance of getting the business,
which strategy will you use?
Can you go head-to-head and "over power" the competition?
Change the rules
Will you need to change the rules on them by setting criteria
only you can meet?
Piece of the Pie
If you can't get the entire project, is there some piece of it
that will competitively advantage us for the next purchasing cycle?
Traditional selling has used a "head-to-head" approach. This is when one salesperson tells the prospect all the reasons s/he has a better solution than anyone else. Meanwhile, competing salespeople would be saying the same thing about their own products and services. The prospect was then left to sort through the claims to decide which would best solve their problems.
The "head-to-head" strategy still has its place. If your product/service is clearly better than competing solutions, take them head on! Ask questions rather than make claims ("telling" invites skepticism). The challenge is that in today's marketplace, it is increasingly difficult to have and to keep such strong advantages unique to one company. The competition is always looking for ways to do things better, faster and cheaper.
If the advantages you have over your competition are not so obvious or dramatic, a "head-to-head" strategy comes down to a personality contest and a coin toss. If the prospect doesn't like you best and if you don't have luck on your side, this clearly isn't the best strategy.
Change the rules
If a side by side comparison wouldn't make your product/service an obvious winner, you can try to change the rules for selection. If you can't "overpower" your competitor, perhaps you can set specific criteria that only you can meet.
The game plan with this strategy is to focus the prospect's attention on areas where you are strong, the competitor is weak and the prospect has needs. Through questions, you can lead the prospect on a process of discovery of the specific problems s/he has that you can solve. The problems you are focusing on are those that you can solve with your unique and/or distinctive areas of competence.
The end result is to set criteria, or minimum requirements, that you alone can meet. Although some sales are determined by one overriding factor, most often it is a weighted decision. Company A can do this, this and this. Company B can only do this and this-so Company A gets the business. Your goal is to set the criteria by which all companies will be measured. That is, changing the rules.
Piece of the Pie
Given a choice, would you rather prospect on the outside trying to get in, or from the inside trying to expand your existing business? Assuming your work is meeting (ideally exceeding) the client's expectations, it is much easier to grow business from the inside that already exists.
For any given opportunity, it may be you can not get the entire project. The game is not necessarily over. Is there some piece of the business that will competitively advantage you for the next purchasing cycle? Lead with your strongest advantage and get in the door. Then einsure your work is above standard. Now, lobby from the inside for additional opportunity. Develop coaches who can and who are willing to help you navigate the buying maze.
Questions To Help Determine Strategy
1. Can you interact with or cover each of the decision makers that will influence the outcome of this sale?
2. Do you have the time and resources necessary to interact?
3. Can you competitively position yourself to overpower the competitor?
4. Do you have sufficient unique selling points to change the rules and do you have time to accomplish this? Do you have access to the key decision makers to do this?
5. Can you sufficiently quantify your unique selling points to prevent price pressure?
6. Can you neutralize the competitor's strengths?
7. Do you have the capacity to deliver?
8. If you can't get the whole project, what piece would competitively advantage you for the next purchase?
9. How does this opportunity stack up against others that need your resources to acquire?
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