A salesperson asked me a question that sounded a lot like this: “Do I have to understand my competitors’ solutions to be able to sell effectively?” This is was in response to a challenge from a prospective client who asked him, “How is your solution different from your competitor’s?”
You have to know what your competitors do so that you can differentiate your offering from their offering. Without knowing what they do, how they do it, and why they do it their way, differentiating is difficult at best, impossible at worst. You also cannot be impartial about the right solution and disqualify clients that you can’t easily serve (Let’s look at how both of these ideas help you differentiate and gain trust.)
By knowing what your competitors do, you can explain where they create value and who might be a good client for them. For example, if they have a low price model that is at quite the opposite of yours, you can point to the fact that if price is the dominate decision factor for your prospect, your competitor may be a better choice. If you can’t serve them, you can point them to someone with a lower price, and by doing so; preserve the relationship so that if they move upstream, you are the first person they call.
Another reason to know what your competitors do is so you can suggest that in some cases they may be the right choice, but in other situations, where different outcomes are important, your solution is likely a better fit. By acknowledging that there are cases where their solution might be right, you create the opportunity to explore where yours is different, as well as explaining how and why you do things differently to produce the better result you do in the situations where you do produce better outcomes.
Being willing to share the differences between what you do and what your competitor does, and where they create value that appeals to some people, you create trust and your honest candor makes it easy to believe you when you point to the areas where your solution is better.
If you don’t know what your competitor does, you cannot easily differentiate your offering. If you can’t differentiate your offering, you sound like a commodity, you reveal that you are not a subject matter expert (and are really only an expert in your product), and you make it unlikely that you can hold the position of trusted counsel because you lack the advice that would be necessary to doing so.
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Filed under: Sales