It seems like we are always in the middle of an election campaign of one sort or another. And with each one, I watch every leadership debate on TV. When I do, I am always reminded of a very important lesson. Whether it's in politics or in sales, attacking your competition simply doesn't work. Here’s a better way how to sell against the competition.
Attacking Your Competition with Negative Selling Doesn’t work!
Think about it. When you criticize your competition, whether it be someone I voted for, or some company I purchased from, you are actually questioning my purchasing decision. Continue the attack and I will get insulted and defensive.
I will actually start to look for reasons to justify my purchase and defend my decision. I may not tell you this, but I certainly am thinking it. In reality, by cutting down the competition who is your prospect's current supplier, you are actually creating loyalty for your competition!
How Not to Point Out Your Competitor’s Weaknesses
For example, I was recently at a networking meeting, and I was unlucky enough to be cornered by a financial services representative. Before he even had the courtesy to ask me a single question, he launched into a tirade about how evil a certain company was in dealing with their clients. Not only was he wrong in his assessment (yes, the company he mentioned was my current supplier), he made me realize that I was already dealing with the best company to satisfy my needs.
How to Sell Against the Competition Without Attacking Them
But what if he had been right? What if the company I was dealing with was far inferior to his? How do you make a prospect question his current supplier without being confrontational and causing the prospect to be defensive about his purchasing decision? You need to ask the right questions!
'Mr. Prospect, some of our customers who used to deal with ABC Company have mentioned they have experienced an issue with _____. Have you ever experienced this? How did it affect you? Would it help if we could eliminate it? How would it help?'
This line of questioning allows the prospect to discover issues he may never knew he had. If he says no, he has not experienced the same issue, then you have avoided the counter-productive competitive attack. If he says yes however, you have earned the right to showcase your competitive advantages and increase your chances of making the sale.
You Have to Know Your Competition to Sell Against Them
When you look at the structure of this line of questioning, one thing probably became obvious. You have to know your competition’s weaknesses in order for this to work. So how do you find out this information? How do you know what are their real weaknesses versus what you just think are their wekanesses?
The first thing you need to do is identify your main competitors. Literally, you should make a list of who who sell against every day. Just brainstorm it and come up with as many potential competitors as you can.
Once you have your list, there are many ways to learn more about your competitors. The easiest is to start with a Google Search for any customer reviews that may exist. You can also browse their website and Linkedin pages to look at at their marketing literature and customer service policies. And of course, you can talk to some of their former employees.
The Best Source of Competitive Information
Once you have gathered all the public information you can about your competition, the next step is to ask your customers.
Make a conscious effort to spend some time talking to your best customers. Call two a day. Not only is this a great time to ask for referrals, but there literally is no better source of information of where your competition is weak, and where you are strong, then those who have bought from you.
Start tracking who your customers were dealing with before they purchased from you. Then ask why they chose you over your competitors. Be sure to track the results in your CRM as well.
How to Design a CRM System
Create a Competition File
Now that you know where you are better than your competition, create a list of questions using the formula discussed earlier you can use to help prospects discover issues he may never knew he had. Do this for every competitor and for every competitive advantage you have.
- 'Mr. Prospect, some of our customers who used to deal with ABC Company have mentioned they have experienced an issue with _. Have you ever experienced this? How did it affect you? Would it help if we could eliminate it? How would it help?'
Remember, every prospect will give you the “I am happy with my current supplier” objection until you show them they should expect more.
How to Sell Against the Competition? Earn their Vote!
Remember, just like a ballot in an election, prospects vote with their hard earned purchasing dollars. Tell me what is wrong with the other candidate, and I will look for someone else. Negative selling simply doesn’t work in the long run. But tell me what you are going to do and why it is better, and you have earned my vote.
Take the time to determine your distinct competitive advantages. Why? Because you will drastically increase your chances of winning the sale when together you and your prospect identify problems that you can fix better than the competition.
“… what I can tell anyone, is simply this – If you want to learn and understand sales, talk to Susan.”
Do you have a question about sales? You’re not alone. Most salespeople have questions like this on how they can sell more. For the right answers, check out my book, Ask the Sales Coach-Practical Answers to the Questions Sales People Ask Most.