If you sell in a competitive market (and who doesn't) chances are you have run smack dab in the middle of a competitive situation. Whether it is quote, proposal, bid, or inquiry the odds are your client is looking at others before making their final choice.
Here's the good news: Competitive situations are actually great opportunities because it provides you with a superb means of knocking your competition without really knocking your competition. It is your big chance to position you and your company as distinctive, unique and different. And that just might give you the edge. Here's how you do it.
The moment your customers or prospects tell you that they are using (or are considering using) one of your competitors, follow this process:
1. Acknowledge Your Competition
First, acknowledge your competitor. Never, ever slam your competitor. Avoid the cheap shots. Don't knock them in any way, shape or form. Doing so will only embarrass your client because it makes you look tacky and unprofessional.
In fact, do just the opposite: acknowledge their expertise or value. For instance, if your customer says, "Jim, just to let you know we are also considering ABC Medical."
You reply, "Yes. ABC Medical is a good company."
This is a powerful sales move because it positions you as reasonable, respectful and classy. It eliminates any defensiveness the client might feel if you had taken a shot and makes them more receptive to you and your approach. But don't elaborate further. This is enough to show respect.
2. Ask This Question
Next, ask this simple question, "Would you be interested in knowing what makes us unique from ABC?" Pause and let them answer.
Of course they are going to say yes. Who wouldn't? Your clients are dying to know. They want or need something to justify buying from you otherwise you all look the same. By asking this question, you get the client's full attention. And because you were so courteous about the competitor they feel compelled to reciprocate and listen. They are focused. It's your moment to shine.
3. Explain The Difference
Here's how you shine. The third step is to clearly delineate what makes your company or your product distinctive. You must provide your client with information that makes you distinctive relative to the competitor. And understand this: you don't even have to be better or cheaper or faster or newer or whatever. You simply must be distinctive. Viva la difference!
To continue with the example above, you might reply, "What makes us unique is that we sell ONLY cardio vascular products. That's our focus and expertise. We don't do GI, ortho, or OB/GYN. What this really does is allow us to evaluate every cardio product on the market and choose only those products that give the absolute best results. We know cardio, inside and out. We support it inside and out. We don't get cluttered or confused with other lines. We're specialists."
Here's what's really happening with this kind of reply. First, it directly positions your company as very distinct. It elevates your 'expertise' in the market. Second, it indirectly 'suggests' that your competitor is a 'generalist' who offers a myriad of products. The 'implication'-without it ever being said- is that they cannot provide the same level of knowledge, competence and expertise. Again, this is never, ever said but it hangs in the air like a warm breeze. The fact is your competitor could be very competent but what you have done is vocalized the difference and so it becomes THE difference.
Define Your Difference - Difference by Declaration
Finding a difference is not necessarily easy. It might require a good deal of thought. But you have to do it. One way to do this is simply to declare an area of distinction. Herald it. Emphasize it. Market it. Tell the world. Proclaim it from the rooftops. Even if it isn't all that big; even if your competitor could argue that they do the same; shout it out for all to hear anyway.
There's a story of a spice manufacturer that once advertised "NO MSG added." The whole marketing campaign was predicated on the fact that their spices were MSG free. Now here's the thing: the competitors did not use MSG either. But in the minds of many consumers, the implication was that other manufacturers used MSG. And even when the competitors would explain, 'hey, we don't have MSG either' the effect was to make the competitors look like they were playing 'catch up' rather than differentiating themselves. It was a heck of a campaign. The competition was knocked without ever being pushed or shoved. Brilliant.
Sit down and think: what makes us really different? What is something my customers and prospects should know that separates us from the rest? What can we herald from the rooftops? What can you say in a presentation? What can be our standard response when encountering a competitor?
If you do all this, you WILL have an edge. You will knock your competitor without them (or the customer) ever realizing it. Try it and see.
By the way, no MSG was used in the creation of this article.
About the Author:
Jim Domanski is president of Teleconcepts Consulting and works with companies and individuals who struggle to use the telephone more effectively. Author of four highly regarded books on tele-selling, Jim also writes two e-newsletters for tele-sales reps and tele-sales managers. He has also provided training and consulting to audiences, universities, and clients through the US, Canada and Europe.