Some Questions. Do you know who your competitors are, both direct and indirect? If so , are you tuned into their sales and marketing strategies? Do you have a process in place to monitor changes in the competitive landscape? Do you have a well informed strategy for countering competitive threats?
There is a tendency to be complacent about the competition, particularly if you are well established with a ‘loyal’ customer base. However, the more successful you are the more likely it is that competitors will emerge and you will not always know that your customers are being approached. It is wise to assume that your customers are always on the look out for something new or better, no matter how embedded you think they are. If you are not fully aware of competitive offerings, you will not be best positioned to take pre emptive action to retain a customer, or turn a prospect into a customer.
Think widely when considering potential competitive threats. Anyone providing a solution to a customer need which is in your ‘space’ is a potential competitor. Ultimately it is not your view on who the competition are that counts, but your customers or prospects perspective. There is a good chance that you are defining your competitors too narrowly, so think outside the box in terms of where competitive threats may emerge. What are all the ways that a customer may solve it’s problems?
You can only build conviction in your own product or service offering through knowing in detail what the competition offer.
In order to be able to counter competitive threats (NB assumes you know what they are) your sales team should :
– Have a detailed knowledge of your offering, from a user perspective
– Be clear about points of differentiation v competition and where you are better
– Know weaknesses v competitive offerings (as likely to be perceived by customer/prospect)
– Address points of differentiation and potential objections as part of the sales pitch
– Have good questioning and listening skills, so that offerings can be customised to match customer needs.
Feedback from the sales team should be a key input to ongoing product and service development. It will also help to more accurately pre qualify prospects, so that sales activity is focused on those prospects where the match is best between your offering and the need. This is another way of reducing the threat from competitors.