What happened? You just knew you had a sale and then your prospect did something completely different than what you thought they were going to do!
What happened was you lost out to the competition. The word competition can conjure up many things in your mind. You may think about the many competitors that offer similar products or services that you do. You may think about the advantages or disadvantages your product or service has in relation to your competitors. Most of the time though, when you think about competition you think about competition as being another company, product, or service.
What you may not have taken into consideration is there are competitive forces that you need to contend with in sales then just “traditional” competition. I often refer to these non-traditional competitive forces as hidden competitors.
There are two distinct hidden competitors that we are going to discuss. The first is a mindset and the second is a buying influencer.
The “We’ve always done it this way competitor”
If the solution you are bringing to your prospects represents a fundamental change in the way they have previously done things this is a major competitor.
Consider if your prospect has been using your competitor’s brand for some time, the decision to move from the competitor’s brand to your brand may not be based solely on the value you bring versus the competitor.
In fact, your prospect may be sold on the fact that your product is actually better than what they are currently using.
However, part of the decision making process will revolve around the ease of transition from one company to the other company.
When you think of what is involved in changing companies there is a lot to change. There are new accounts to set up from an admin basis. There are new procedures and processes that may be different for your company versus brand X. There are the new relationships that have to be formed.
As you can see with the amount of change that has to be made, part of the value you bring is eroded by the “cost” of changing.
What you have to do as the sales person is show how the transition will be minimal and easy.
The “outside looking in competitor”
In most business to business sales situations that involve a significant investment for products or services there will be many buying influencers in the decision making process.
Buying influencers are those people that have input into the decision making process.
Most of the buying influencers will be inside the company. However, you may encounter a buying influencer that is outside the company.
Buying influencers that are outside the company could include attorneys, CPAs, consultants, and partners not actually working in the business.
The outsiders looking in play a role in the decision even though the product or service may not directly impact them.
Most of the times these outside buying influencers can’t give the decision to buy, but they can say don’t buy.
It is imperative that you know all of the buying influencers that will be playing a role in the decision making process. You can’t be afraid to ask who will be involved in making the decision and confirm that you know and are aware of everyone that could remotely influence the decision.
With the outsiders looking in competitor you have to make sure you address their needs and concerns. If necessary you may need to meet with them to understand what they want to accomplish and how your product or service would satisfy their needs.
In conclusion, competition can have many faces. Don’t be short sighted and think that your only competition are the companies you compete against. Competition includes all of the alternatives and obstacles that stand in the way of you making the sale.