Always Ask About Competitors
By: Linda Richardson | 2003-04-17
Sometimes you can get so caught up in learning about the client's needs and so excited by your own enthusiasm for your solution, that you can miss asking about the competition even if the client mentions "competitors." Although you can, you may not want to ask about the competitor the minute the client brings it up, but you must get back to it.
Whether or not the client raises the issue of competitors, it is VITAL that as the salesperson, you ask about competitors. Many salespeople are hesitant to ask. Some are concerned it is inappropriate. Others may not want to hear what could be bad news. But most, it seems, just are not disciplined to make it a critical part of their sales dialogue. Of course, there are a small percentage of clients who will not disclose who the competitors are and, for those, a simple acknowledgement ("I can understand") and moving on works well. You often can try again to get competitive data by saying, "I know you don't want to share names, how does… (your idea) compare to what else you are hearing?"
Much of the time in most sectors, if you ask, clients will tell you about competitors in real depth. You will gain very important information that will let you plan a competitive strategy and best position your solution/recommendation.
To learn about your competitors:
The most compelling reason to ask about the competition is to give you the information you need to create a competitive strategy to help you win deals. Asking about competitors also provides you with competitive data critical not only to your deal, but to your organization.
Remember, just knowing who the competitors are is not enough. As you debrief the call, ask yourself - Who are the competitors? How do my offerings stack up? How does the client feel about them? How does the client feel about the competition compared to how they feel about my company? No matter who the competitor is, don't be crestfallen. Don't make the assumption that you can't compete. Don't underestimate yourself. Remain confident. Ask questions. Get specifics. Get the competitive information you need to differentiate your offering and win.
About the Author: Linda Richardson: President and CEO of Richardson, training consultants to corporations, banks, and investment banks globally. Richardson has 110 professionals, 15 regional offices in the United States, and presence in London, Australia, Singapore, Latin America, and Asia. Clients of Richardson include KPMG, Federal Express, General Mills, Tiffany & Co., Dell Computer, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Citibank, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, and Kinko's. Visit http://www.Richardson.com.