9 Rules for Competing for New Business

Much of the time, those of us in B2B sales find ourselves competing with a rival for a client. Someone wins, and someone loses. Because this is true, you have to play the game to win. Here are nine rules to help you compete and beat your competition.

  • Respect Your Competition: One of the worst mistakes you can make when competing for business is underestimating your competition. The part of you that wants—and needs—to believe that you are better should make a little room for the idea that your competitor is going to be challenging to beat. Disrespecting your competition means you are overconfident. History books are rife with examples of those whose hubris caused them to lose what they might have won.
  • Know Your Competition: I never signed in without flipping through the client’s guest book to see which of my competitors had visited the client. Sometimes the person behind the desk would look at me as if I were doing something wrong, but as far as I was concerned, it would have been wrong not to look. However you get information, knowing who else is competing for your dream client’s business gives you a better idea of how to compete, the subject of our next rule.
  • Proactively Remove Threats: You know that your low price, bottom feeder competitor is sure to undercut your price by a significant amount. You know that your massive competitor with a footprint that covers most of the known universe is going to make their size and scale an issue, one they believe you can’t address. When your price is higher, disclose it early and use it to explain how it relates to what your client wants. Make sure your client knows that only two of the Death Star’s satellites are in their orbit and that you are boutique, local, and right around the corner, so they won’t have to wait for Lord Vader to weigh in on the things they want or need from the local team.
  • Your Sales Approach Is Your Advantage: You might believe your solution should be enough to win you a deal, but that is competing at Level 1, the lowest level of value, and an approach that is almost certain to cause you to lose to a salesperson that creates more value throughout the process. If you wonder whether or not your sales approach is a modern, consultative approach, it’s almost certain it isn’t. When you have to compete, your most significant advantage is how you sell—or it is not.
  • Spend Time with Your Prospective Client: During this time of massive technological innovation, more and more, salespeople are seeing their clients less and less. You have to love competing against someone who wants to phone it in. Scratch that. Change it to “email it in.” The more time you spend with your dream client, the greater your competitive advantage. Who wants to buy from someone who doesn’t want to visit with them and does everything they can to avoid a face-to-face meeting?
  • Control the Process: It’s doubtful that anyone taught, trained, or coached to control the process, which means helping your client with the conversations and commitments they need to make to produce the better results they need. When you provide more guidance on how to produce the results they need, including how best to manage their internal process, the help and advice you provide will create compelling differentiation when compared to your “also-rans.”
  • Make Consensus Job One: In large, complex sales, you are not selling a decision-maker; you are selling all the stakeholders who are going to weigh in on your initiative. She who builds consensus dominates her competition. The more people you know, the more people know you. The more you understand what they need, the better you can tailor your solution to their needs. Your effort here will not be matched by your competition, most of whom won’t bother to invest the time or energy. Consensus pulls you ahead in a contest.
  • Engage Your Team: One way to help your cause in a contest is to engage your team. Sit your operations team down with your clients and watch them light up the room when they tell the client how they are going to give them exactly what they want, how they want it. The reason operations people are such good salespeople is because their day to day work has taught them what clients want and how to help them get it.
  • Play to Win: Why take half measures? Why not bring in your leadership team to help demonstrate your commitment? Why avoid using every resource in your arsenal of tools to ensure that you win? Selling is a game in which one person wins, and everyone else necessarily loses. There is no reason to believe you are going to win if you don’t compete to win, doing in everything in your power to get the “W.” Assume your competitor is bringing their best game, and then make sure they get the “L.”

Compete, win, and eat their lunch.

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