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Stop Letting Your Competitor Define Your Sales Strategy!

by David Brock on August 29th, 2012

Recently, I was doing some reviews with a sales team.  We were talking about some of their deals and they were consumed with a specific competitor.  They complained, “How do we deal with this competitor?  How do we respond to the things they are doing?”

With those questions, I could see they were in deep trouble.  But they were in a position that too many other sales people fall victim to.  The sales people were letting the competitor drive and set the sales strategy instead of having it driven by the customer.  There’s no mincing words, this is a losing strategy 100% of the time.  When we let the competitor drive our strategies, we might as well abandon the opportunity.  There is no chance we will win–or if we do, the terms will probably be very unfavorable.

Our sales strategies need to be driven by our customers and their buying process.  We need to understand what the customers are trying to achieve.  We need to provide leadership in helping the customer identify and solve their problems.  We need to teach the customer about how they can better achieve their goals.  Often, our customers don’t know how to buy and we create great value in facilitatiing the buying process.

Understanding our competition in each deal is important.  Developing strategies which demonstrate our superiority and differentiation to the customer is critical.  But strategies driven by responding to the competition not providing leadership to the customer are simply losing strategies.  In doing this, we surrender leadership and innovation to the competition.  They are the one’s helping the shape the customer ideas and priorities.  They are the one’s creating value through the customer buying process.  They become the standard against which all the alternatives are being evaluated.

Letting the competition drive your sales strategy, focusing on “how we respond,” only validates the competitor’s position.  Sure you will be able to say, “we do this better, we have this capability and they don’t, we are cheaper!”  But it’s a defensive strategy.  It provides no leadership and no value to the customer.  These responses are probably meaningless to the customer since it removes the focus from them and puts it on your competition. 

The best competitive strategy is forcing the competition to respond to you.  Put them into that position!  (Too many in sales seem to want to be in that position rather than provide leadership).  Focus on the customer, force the competitor to respond the rule.  Work with the customer and help them define the rules.  Be aware of the competitors and how they are positioning themselves, but never never never let them define your sales strategy!

  1. Oliver Walsdorf permalink

    I fully agree with your opinion. I can see many VPs and Directors answering to competitors FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) by answering straight instead of doing a classic U-Turn. U-Turn means:

    1. Ask questions to understand what the customer/competitor means
    2. Crisp answer
    3. Validate your answer
    4. Move to your agenda and use your sales strategy

    It’s not easy to do it. You have to learn it but would you answer straight when somebody says to you “You’re stupid”? Of course not. You would ask why. That’s the difference.


    • Thanks for the great response Oliver. As you point out, our strategies need to focus on providing leadership and value to what the customer is trying to achieve. Not comparing ourselves to the alternatives. We only strengthen our competitor by letting them call the shots.

  2. Superb posting Devid….Thanks for sharing. I learned a lot from it.

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