How to Improve your Sales Strategy by Knowing your Toughest Competitor
I’m always thrilled to promote sales strategy resources from trusted colleagues. Lee Salz is always a thought leader whom I appreciate. He is a leading sales management strategist and CEO of Sales Architects. A recognized expert in sales differentiation, he works with senior executives and business owners across all industries helping salespeople win more deals at the prices they want.
You can learn more in Lee’s new book “Sell Different!: All New Sales Differentiation Strategies to Outsmart, Outmaneuver, and Outsell the Competition.”
And, enjoy his recent article.
An excerpt from Sell Different! by Lee B. Salz
One of my favorite questions to ask salespeople is, “Who is your toughest competitor?” I’ve posed this question to salespeople all around the world. Yet, I’ve never had any salesperson answer correctly.
Most salespeople quickly rattle off three names of players in their space who they see as competitors. “I’m sure those are tough competitors,” I tell them. “But there is one even tougher.”
Some salespeople think I’m asking a trick question. They’ll recall a lesson they learned from a sales trainer years ago and venture a guess: “You mean the status quo, aka the choice to do nothing?” That is certainly a tough competitor, but there is one even tougher.
A few salespeople consider themselves as their biggest competitor. “If I don’t have a strong mental game, I am my own worst enemy,” they say. True! If you don’t have the right sales mindset, you can be a limiting factor in your success. But you are not your own toughest competitor.
There is one even tougher, more formidable than any other. As I said, no one has ever figured out who that competitor is. The answer will shock you. It isn’t going to make you feel better about your sales situation. Actually, it will make you uncomfortable, which believe it or not is a good thing. If you know who your toughest competitor is, you can take the actions necessary to defeat it. So, who is your toughest competitor?
It’s every salesperson prospecting the same person you are.
When we think about competition, we tend to be egocentric; we only consider it from our side of the desk. Let’s flip it around to the buyer’s side of the desk and see it from their perspective. The person you are calling is receiving prospecting calls and emails from salespeople representing their entire purview of responsibilities. Each salesperson is selling the identical thing: “a meeting.” They want phone or face time with the same person you seek to engage.
Here’s the bad news. You aren’t competing against a handful of players in your industry, but against hundreds of salespeople who are calling on this individual.
Suppose you call on a CIO to sell application development services. Set aside for a moment the fact that there are a number of players in your industry. Now, think about a CIO’s overall responsibilities. He is inundated with calls and emails from others in your space as well as from the telecom industry, hardware providers, software providers, and on and on. Among the hundreds of salespeople reaching out to him, how many will actually land a meeting? A few, maybe.
Here is a fact you might not know.
In the history of business, there has never been an executive hired
for the sole purpose of meeting with salespeople every hour on the hour.
It’s never happened! No executive is sitting at her desk, staring at her phone, and hoping it will ring with a salesperson on the other end. Let’s face it: we are an interruption in her day. She has many responsibilities and is only going to meet with a select few salespeople.
Here is an important sales dynamic of which to be mindful. If there isn’t a meeting, there isn’t a proposal. If there isn’t a proposal, there is no sale. If there is no sale, there’s no commission check. It’s a very logical, yet scary, dynamic.
This also highlights the importance of differentiating yourself during prospecting. The RAIN Group, a well-respected global sales training firm, conducted an intriguing survey among executives. Respondents were asked if they had ever accepted a meeting with a salesperson who reached out to them through prospecting. I love asking audiences to guess the percentage that accepted the meeting. One shouts out “6 percent!” Another guesses 15 percent. Others argue that’s too low and insist it’s 38 percent.
Based on the survey, all of those answers are wrong. The correct answer is 82 percent! Eighty-two percent of executives say they agreed to a meeting with a salesperson who contacted them through prospecting. Prospecting is alive and well. All salespeople need to include it in their business development repertoire.
The RAIN Group survey also revealed the secret ingredient to acquiring a meeting through prospecting: personalization. Buyers can smell a generic, unauthentic sales outreach a mile away. This is true in any form of prospecting, not just voicemail messages.
Coming back to the toughest competitor, you are competing against hundreds of salespeople for face time with prospects. If you are going to be in the 82% group that lands the meeting, you have to Sell Different! with your prospecting approach.
Before you pick up the phone or hit send on a prospecting email, put yourself on the recipient’s side of the desk and introspectively ask, “Would I take a meeting with this salesperson based on the message and the approach?” If not, there’s work to be done before your reach out to that prospect.
The introspective foundation question to develop your prospecting approach is:
“Why should they want to have a conversation with you right now?”
The common approach is to ask: “Why should we talk with them now?” However, that question is egocentric as it places the focus on the salesperson, not on the buyer.
Here’s a way to personalize your prospecting outreach. Imagine you sell conference room audiovisual equipment to companies. Ask yourself: “What events in the buyer’s world would spark interest in a conversation with you?”
Examples in this scenario include: a new CIO is hired or the company expands/relocates/acquires. If any of those things are happening, they are probably having internal conversations about the technology in their conference rooms. Since that is what you sell, they should want to have a conversation with you right now.
Ah, but how do you know about these events? Use Google Alerts, a free tool that alerts you to information you want to know. It takes a few seconds to prepare, but can be your secret to personalizing your outreach, booking the meeting, and winning the deal at the prices you want.
About the Author
Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist and CEO of Sales Architects. A recognized expert in sales differentiation, he works with senior executives and business owners across all industries helping salespeople win more deals at the prices they want. Learn more in Lee’s new book “Sell Different!: All New Sales Differentiation Strategies to Outsmart, Outmaneuver, and Outsell the Competition.”