5 Ways to Be More Competitive in Sales

1. First Beat Your Most Difficult Opponent: You!

There is an old Japanese saying, “Makatsu Agatsu.” It translates to “True Victory is Victory Over Oneself.” Most of the time our winning or losing is determined by our own actions, or lack thereof. In order to win in any contest, especially a zero sum game, you need to be prepared to be competitive before engaging in the contest.

Victory over yourself means spending long hours in practice and preparation, as do all great champions, regardless of their discipline.

Being prepared to win means that you have to have a strong knowledge of the foundational skills. Victory here means beating the apathy and the procrastination that prevent you from building the competencies needed to win.

Victory over yourself means taking the right actions that ensure you are in a position to win. It means reflecting on what you do and going through a self-critique to determine what areas you need to work on without losing your optimism. It means beating back the cynicism that leads to a lack of engagement. It is victory over the arrogance that you can win without the preparation.

Victory over yourself really means becoming the best you that you can possibly be. It is based upon believing that you can be—and need to be—better than you presently are in order to win. Only the arrogant believe they are presently good enough to beat their competitors; those who would win and become champions work every day on making themselves better.

Put this into action by making a list of the actions you need to take to build your competencies in your chosen discipline. Make an action list of things you need to do to be a better you altogether.

2. Know Your Strengths and Play to Them

In order to be competitive and win, you need to play your game. You need to know what your strengths are and play to those strengths. Playing to your strengths means placing outsized effort and energy on the areas where you’re doing so produces outsized results.

Here is an example to try to bring this to life. I know a sales rep that is an extraordinarily gifted cold caller. She can schedule about half of every prospect she talks to on the very first call. Even though she could network, use the Internet to contact prospects, beg for referrals, or prospect in one hundred other ways, there is no reason to do anything outside of what, for her, produces the greatest result.

What are your existing strengths? How could you place more emphasis on utilizing those strengths to create even greater results?

3. Know Your Weaknesses and Minimize Them

There is research that indicates that success is built to playing to your strengths and not spending your time working on overcoming your weaknesses. But you do need to make sure your weaknesses aren’t enough of a liability to prevent you from winning.

As a cautionary note, you cannot ignore the weaknesses in the fundamental attributes and skill sets your discipline requires. In sales, you cannot succeed, for example, if you are weak in prospecting. You need to make sure that your fundamentals are strong.

Make a list of your weaknesses. Make of list of people on your team who have strengths in that area and who you can call upon to help offset your weaknesses. How can you minimize the impact of your weaknesses? How can you ensure that your weaknesses don’t cause you to lose?

Quick example. Maybe you are weak on understanding the technical details of your product or service. You can gain enough competency to speak about the big picture while brining in the technical expert to discuss the finer details.

4. Know Your Competitors

In competition, you not only need to how to play your best game based on your strengths and your weaknesses. You also have to study how your competitor plays their best game and understand their strengths and weaknesses.

Studying your competitors allows you to develop the strategies and tactics to beat them.  This is the stuff that strategy is made of.

Make a list of your primary competitors. Who beats you? How and why do they beat you? What allows them to win? How could you change what you do to be in a better position to beat them? What are their weaknesses and how can you better exploit them?

5. Play Hard: This is a Zero Sum Game

It is important to play the game like there are consequences.

This means you have to be passionately engaged in what you are doing every step of the way. Keeping in mind the high cost of losing helps to remind you that you have to bring your A-game each and every day. It reminds you that you have to give it all, leaving it all on the field whether you win or lose.

Make a list of what you can do to play harder. What do you need to do to bring you’re A-game to every contest? Who do you need to be?

Winning in sales (or anything) requires that you compete. But first you must compete against the personal obstacles and roadblocks that prevent your success. Then, you have to play the zero sum game like losing has consequences, bringing you’re A-game to every contest.

How do you make sure that you are competitive?



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  • Jonathan Saint John

    Excellent – post. It reminds me of the saying — “you have nothing to fear but fear itself,” which in this context is the fear within you.


  • http://lookingtobusiness.com Daniel M. Wood

    Since I was very young I have played sports. In many ways sports and sales are the same.
    The examples you discuss in your article cover most of them.

    Most often the battle to improve, to win, starts with yourself.
    Just as your wrote yesterday we all have a critic within us, which makes beating ourselves sometimes the hardest thing we ever could do.

    But just as in sports, you can do it, you can improve and you can beat yourself. It takes a lot of hard work, practice and willpower.
    The best sport stars in the best salesmen work on techniques and their skills, daily.

    But, it is important to play to your strengths. Many people will focus on trying to improve things that they really don’t need to. Like your friend, who is a great cold caller, why should she waste time improving on other ways of generating leads?

    What she should work on is to improve her skills at closing those leads.
    It is better to focus your efforts on the parts of the process that are loosing you sales.

    The battle of course isn’t only within you, it is against the competitors, so knowing your competitors is crucial. There is a lot you can learn from watching them and incorporating the techniques they use into your own sales techniques.

    Thanks again for the article Anthony, it was great.

    //Daniel M. Wood
    Looking To Business

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  • Janna Soltero

    On playing hard and finding an edge of competitors – do you consider client research in general and using sales triggers in particular as a better way to penetrate new accounts and beat the competition? A number of companies I know rely on such triggers as management change, M&A, etc. as their entry attempts into new accounts. Do you have suggestions on how to best integrate this concept with tactics you mention? Further, do you know of companies that offer sales trigger alert services (there is inside view – but they are not accurate; and http://www.ctosonthemove.com – but they are only IT execs-focused)? Thank you for your input. JS

    • http://www.santhonyiannarino.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for the comment, Janna. I am not a big trigger events guy, but I have some friends who are.

      I am a sales effectiveness guy. Sometimes an event might be useful, but I wouldn’t wait for an event to start developing an account that I wanted.