Choose your competitors

If you want to appear tall, stand next to someone shorter than you.

Choosing who to compete against can be just as important as choosing who to sell to. Below are three areas highlighting why this is the case:

1. Positioning against a judicious choice of competing solutions / processes is the most meaningful way to explain to a potential customer exactly what it is you do and how you do it better than alternatives. Every purchaser makes his/her choice based upon comparisons; it is in your best interest to provide them with those comparisons. It enables your prospect to define to themselves what it is you do and how you do it – this is absolutely something you should control.

2. Shortening your sales cycle through market education. When customers buy a solution, they can be considered to have gone through a learning journey regarding their needs. Monica Nicou et al break the steps down in their book ‘Sell Your Knowledge’:

  • No awareness of need
  • Senses threat / possibility
  • Observes insufficiency
  • Makes a diagnosis / identifies a need
  • Expresses demand

Imagine your favourite pair of jeans – you are going to reject a salesman’s offer to sell you a new pair because as far as you are concerned, you don’t need any. Now imagine your wife tells you she hates the jeans. You sense a threat – there could be trouble unless you sharpen up your act. You notice that your jeans are ripped – you’ve put your finger on the insufficiency. You make your diagnosis and identify a pair that satisfies requirements.

In the same way, selling to a company that has made a diagnosis will be a far quicker (and cheaper) process than selling to companies with a less developed understanding of their needs. When entering a new market, if you choose one with the right competitor that has begun the ‘educational’ process with its marketing efforts, you are likely to be faced with a much shorter sales cycle.

3. Creating a compelling argument. One of our clients had beaten a competitor at every pitch they had gone head to head with them on. Relaying this information on at subsequent pitches against this competitor subsequently turned out to be the most effective way to win the business.