Winning Before the Contest

alt text for a man with an ace hidden in back of his jacket

Much of what I have written here is about competition and winning in sales. Much of the time we find ourselves competing against others salespeople and sales organizations for an opportunity with our dream clients, and it is important to maintain a competitive spirit and to know how to win. The best strategy for winning, however, is to not compete.

Many deals are won without a contest. Many more a won with something that looks like a contest, but where the winner has already been decided in advance of the contest.

The best salesperson isn’t the one who wins in a contest. The best salesperson is the one who wins by creating a situation where they win without a contest. The way to avoid a contest is to be so far out in front of the deal that you make the contest unnecessary.

Getting In Front of the Deal

Being in front of the deal means that you have to nurture the relationships within your dream clients, making sure that you understand the needs and visions of the stakeholders two and three levels deep within the organization. You have to know and understand their needs and visions so well that even looking at another offering would be stepping down to someone who doesn’t know or understand their needs like you do. You have to allow your contacts to train you so well in their business, that they can’t imagine anyone else knowing or caring as much as you do. You have to already be part of the team.

To avoid the contest, you also have to have developed a vision of what the right solution looks like together with your client. You will have to have already presented numerous pre-proposals, dialing in your solution so tightly that anything else they could possibly see would look and feel like a stomach turning mismatch.

You will also need to have obtained all of the commitments necessary to moving forward with your solution along the way. You will have to have an agreement from your contacts, from the stakeholders and the real decision-makers and, more than likely, from someone with the authority to sign your agreement.

Doing all of this will put you way out in front of a deal.

Making Yourself and Your Offering the Only Choice

When it is time for your dream client to change, you will have to be positioned as the only real choice, anything else being a lesser alternative or option.

That means you have to already know more than anyone else could possibly know or learn in a short period of time, making someone else with what would be a competing offer nothing more than a stranger.

Your dream client has to know that there is no one else who cares as much about them achieving the outcome of their change initiative as you do, making someone else or some other solution a risk and a threat.

You will have so tightly intertwined your vision and your solution with their vision, that they own the solution completely and are willing to defend it against any internal resistance or external threats.

By approaching the pursuit of your dream client in a way that prevents a contest, you position yourself to win a contest should it be necessary. By working out in front of the deal in this way, should purchasing decide to let an RFP, or should the C-suite decide they want a beauty pageant, you will go into the boardroom with enough votes to be confident in your ability to win. You will have armed your internal partners with what they need to defeat any threats, large or small.

This is where the real action is in sales. The real goal is to win without ever having to engage in a contest; the real goal is having the deck stacked so heavily in your favor should there be a contest, winning is inevitable.

Questions

  1. What must you do today to position yourself to win your dream client opportunity before there is a contest?

  2. What will you do today to avoid a contest, and to put yourself in a position that, should a contest be necessary, you are the unavoidable victor?

  3. What actions will you take today to create a situation whereby your dream client will feel so strongly about you and your solution that they will work to avoid even considering anyone else? How will you make their vision of the solution and your vision of the solution a single shared vision that they will defend it on your behalf?

  4. Think about one of your best dream client opportunities. If there were to be a contest today, how many votes in favor of your solution would you already have secured? How many more would you need to win that contest? What do you have to do to secure those votes now, ensuring that nothing else they would ever see could hope to compare to you and your solution?

  5. Why is it impossible to do any of this after the fact, once you are engaged in a contest?


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Comments

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  • CCelli

    In my company, there are 5 official contests per season, and then there are the times when you’re busy building business. I call that the real competition. It’s easy to win a contest. The real work is in building the relationships with your clients, to make sure they will back you up during those times when you need them most, not just during a contest. A contest should be considered the icing on the cake, but I think we all know it’s not the substantial part of the cake.



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