Another important item brought up in a presentation is the issue of competition. When the buyer brings up the idea of competition and states that the same product you are selling can be purchased through a competitor at a lower price, handle it with class and sensitivity. Never put the competition down by degrading or accusing. Point out why your product is different and what additional items your product offers. The sales professional that spends his/her time handling competition by tearing it down and picking it apart is not a true professional. Whenever the issue of competition is brought up, you can do one of two things:
■ Acknowledge the competition, praise it, and pass over it, going on with your presentation.
■ Meet competition head on, armed with facts, and make accurate comparisons.
It is meeting competition head on with facts that will be covered and discussed in this chapter. Let’s learn eight ways to put your competition to work for you.
Using Your Competition Effectively
It might be difficult to concede that competitors help you sell more, but this is actually true. In fact, if there were no competitors, there would be no need for sales professionals. All a company would need is a big sign that states, “Here it is. Come and get it.” While we might agree that fewer competitors would be acceptable, we can make the best of what we have and actually sell more because of them. Here are some helpful hints that will allow you to start using your competition to your advantage.
■ Know your competition: The key to beating your competition to the sale is to learn all you can about the features of their products or services, which will make a difference in the major benefits to your common customers. This is comparable to an athletic team scouting a competitor before a game to learn its favorite and most successful plays. What they learn can help win the game. What a sales professional learns about his/her competition can help win the next sale. A retailing friend of ours would always spend some time during her lunch hour scanning the stores of her competitors. Also, she would keep a very close watch on the newspaper ads of her rivals in business.
■ Look for competitive weaknesses: Before you can stress your own product or service superiority, you have to know where the competitor is vulnerable. You do this by learning about the competition and by concentrating on their weak points. You learn about competition much like your own customers do–by reading advertising, examining their products, attending trade shows, and talking with both satisfied and dissatisfied users.
■ Know your own weaknesses: The same study of competitive weaknesses will bring out their strengths as well, and your own weaknesses by comparison. When you are aware of your own product and service weaknesses, you can set up strategies to compensate for them. You do this by stressing features and benefits that outweigh the competitor’s advantages. Learn to accentuate the positive in your business.
■ Anticipate resistance: As you study competition and compare it with your own product or service, anticipate the objections or resistance a prospect who is aware of your competition will raise. Be ready with a strategy and knowledge for minimizing or overcoming the objection. Remember our discussion earlier in this chapter about the five buying decisions? Good knowledge of this concept will come in handy in anticipating resistance.
■ Study your prospect’s reaction: Listen carefully to your prospect as he/she compares your product with that of a competitor. What impressed the buyer most? What differences seemed most important? From the prospect’s reaction, you can reinforce those differences in your favor and downplay the advantages the competition seemed to have with the prospect.
■ Build your own enthusiasm: A study of competition and your own product usually gives you greater respect for your own position in the market. As you learn more about your own selling advantages, you gain more enthusiasm, which shows up in your sales presentations and in talking about the competition. A thorough knowledge of your own product and the product offerings of the competition will create confidence, which is easily noticed by your potential buyers.
■ Learn from mistakes: Experience is a great teacher as long as it is put to good use in making corrections, especially in selling. Your own mistakes help future sales. But, your competitors make mistakes too. Make an effort to uncover them, then use them to build your own sales plan.
■ Learn from successes: Be alert for ideas that have worked well for your competitors. Test them if they seem appropriate for your selling situations and adapt them. No monopoly exits on ideas that work.
As you gain knowledge about your competition, you can learn to handle the objection of competition more easily when it is brought up in your presentation. Don’t over worry about competition, but, don’t ignore it either. Some sales people degrade competition, while others completely ignore it. I suggest that you acknowledge it and use it to your advantage. Make competition work for you, not against you.
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When the buyer brings up the idea of competition: