Just as it is important for you to know your customer, it is just as important for you to know your competition. In today’s economic environment, the available business is less than it has been in the past. This makes the competitive environment more challenging than ever. In order to maintain your sales effectiveness, you must know your competition inside and out.
Knowing your competition applies at two different levels. You have the total pool of competitors in the marketplace if you are looking at the macro-level and then you have the competitors that you are competing with at the deal level if you are looking at the micro-level.
Competitors in the marketplace
It is important to identify what main companies you are competing against in the marketplace. Once you have these companies identified, map out how you match up against them. What do they do better than you? What do you do better than them? Deep awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of across the competitive landscape is critical to sales effectiveness.
Your competitors’ websites are a good place to start to get competitive information. But that should only be one source of information as the information is biased with it coming directly from the company. You should also look to third-party resources for competitive information to get a more unbiased view.
With all of the tasks of being a sales person like finding business, taking care of existing clients, and dealing with all the administrative stuff, it could be hard to find or justify time to spend researching the competition. The first response to that is there should not be a problem justifying time for researching the competition as it is key to your sales effectiveness. Secondly, one way to find time is to schedule time with yourself each that can be used for learning. Mondays are sometimes good for these type of activities and what you can do is set a couple of learning hours aside that can be spent on learning about a multitude of areas and one of those areas can sometimes be competition.
Competitors at the deal level
In order to maintain sales effectiveness, you will want to know all of the competitors that you are competing with at the deal level. Finding this out can be as simple as asking the prospect what other companies they are considering or talking to. The prospect may be open and rattle off other vendors names. The trick here is that the more nonchalantly you ask who else they are looking at, the more freely they will give the information. If you “tip-toe” around the subject, the prospect’s guard will go up and they may not share as much information.
If the customer is guarded about sharing information on the other vendors they are considering, you can make another pass at getting the information by saying that if you understand all of the vendors they are considering, you can provide some unbiased feedback on strengths and weaknesses and pros and cons that will help to them determine the best path. If they are still not open to sharing, this can provide some details on your sales effectiveness as it can show the amount trust you have established with the prospect and where you sit against the other vendors they are considering.
If you are able to identify who you are competing against, you can then adjust your sales strategy according to how you match up against them from a strength and weakness standpoint. Being able to tweak and develop this deal level strategy will have a direct impact on your sales effectiveness.