Strategy is about creating an unfair advantage. The last thing you ever want going into any competition for any deal is a level playing field; you want to stack the deck as heavily in your favor as possible. You want your sales processes, your individual actions and behaviors, and your solution to build that unfair advantage.
Your Sales Process as a Competitive Advantage
Your sales process is your roadmap to winning deals. It contains your philosophy about sales and selling, and it contains all of the outcomes you have to be able to achieve to make winning more likely. If your sales process is well designed and custom-tailored to your company, it should also include the differentiation at every stage that leads to, and builds, your competitive advantage in the deal.
Here is one quick example. Imagine that your competitors obtain one contact, the decision-maker, throughout their sales process. Maybe they focus on working with and working through that power-sponsor to move the deal. Maybe that works for them. Your process, on the other hand, requires that in the discovery stage, you have to identify and interview the primary stakeholders to understand their view of their problem and to work with them to build your solution (in addition to your power sponsor).
Would your having collected the situational knowledge and the ideas of the stakeholder groups provide you with an edge later, say, when you are presenting your solution and describing the impact on your dream client’s business? It would, and it does.
This is one simple idea, and it may already be contained in your sales process (perhaps overlooked?). Much of what it is contained in your sales process is designed to help build a competitive advantage but, in my opinion, more could be done.
Review your sales process stage by stage (you should do this on a regular schedule anyway). Look for ways that you could create even more of a strategic mismatch between you and your competitors at each and every stage. And, while you are at it, start with the activities that you take that are above the funnel.
Your sales process can be an important source of a competitive advantage. I describe myself as sales process agnostic because I believe that the sales process only gets you so far. A bad salesperson with a great sales process will fare better than they would without a sales process. But a great salesperson with a great sales process creates the very best opportunity to win.
Your Individual Actions and Sales Behaviors as a Competitive Advantage
There is no one with a greater ability to impact your dream client’s decision than you, the salesperson. You opened the opportunity, and if you play your cards right, you will win the deal through your behaviors and your actions. You need to ensure that all of your sales behaviors and your individual actions create a strategic advantage.
Over the last 6 months, I have written about the attributes and behaviors that lead to success in sales, including foundational success attributes like initiative, resourcefulness, determination, and caring, as well as sales-related attributes like closing, differentiating, business acumen, diagnosing, and storytelling. Each of these skills or attributes is something that you alone are responsible for possessing, developing, and using to create a strategic advantage. They have to help answer the question: Why should I buy from you?
These ideas have to lead to the concrete actions and behaviors that cause your dream client to choose you over all others.
It is your job as a salesperson to give yourself an advantage by creating a strategic mismatch. Are you more resourceful and more determined? Do you care more than your competitors? Do you have a greater ability to differentiate—and to be a differentiator yourself? Do you have greater business acumen? Do you create value during every interaction?
You won’t find these skills, abilities, and attributes in your sales process. It is doubtful that they are even part of your company’s hiring criteria. But all of the individual actions and behaviors that are the result of these skills, abilities, and attributes enable the competitive advantage contained in your sales process to create a great strategic advantage.
And all of this is before we even get to the advantage in your actual solution.
Sales is a zero sum competition. The goal of your sales process and your individual sales behaviors and activities is to build an unfair advantage before you ever propose your solution. How do you create a playing field that is titled in your favor?
- Why is important to build your competitive advantage into your sales process?
- What outcomes contained within your sales process are different enough to allow you to create a competitive advantage? What outcomes are approached in a way so different from your competitors that they create a competitive advantage? How do these outcomes tilt the playing field in your favor?
- What could you do during each stage of your sales process to create a strategic advantage.
- What are the skills, the abilities, and the attributes that you must possess to give yourself a strategic advantage over your competitors? What do you do personally to create a strategic mismatch? How do these actions and behaviors increase the odds that your dream client will choose you and your solution?
- Are your dream clients in fact choosing you? What strategic advantage do they hope to be provided with by having done so?
- Even though your dream client suggests that they want a fair competition, does it serve you or your client to operate as if all things need to be equal?
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