This article is intended for sellers with Small to Medium Enterprise companies that want to win new business and take market share away from larger, more established, competitors – taking advantage of a silver lining in a down economy.
Classical selling is product and service focused that’s fueled by brand awareness and some degree of solution superiority. It’s great for industry leaders and for smaller companies with disruptive technology solutions that carve out a market niche, but what about everyone else? Do they slip into decline in a down economy, or do they outsell competitors and protect themselves against no-decision sales outcomes?
DEFEATING STRONG COMPETITORS
Let’s first look at taking on the installed base of entrenched competition within an account. One might think of this as a tall challenge, particularly in a down economy. But, think again. Follow this to be like David taking on Goliath:
· Don’t succumb to a defensive mindset – you can do this. You have only your cost of sale at risk, but your competitor who may well be overconfident, has a lot to lose.
· As soon as you get credibility on the scene, you’re providing value to the client, as they know that you could be leveraged to light a fire under the installed competitor. That could mean a lower price and/or better service for the client. Trust me, someone in client management is going to be focused on reducing cost in a slowing economy. But, that’s just the start, once on the client’s radar, you move to step two.
· Implementing a Divisional sales strategy, you complement and partition the business by establishing your ability to map into a client corporate executive priority, even if indirectly. Then, you couple this with some key competitive intel. Every installed supplier will have a weakness somewhere in the relationship with a client. It could even be one that the competitor has attitudinally discounted, as they tend to be somewhat arrogant, which means that you will have the element of surprise with Goliath asleep at the switch.
PROTECTION FROM A NO-DECISION
Reasons for a no-decision vary, but often center on the client voting for other priorities, the perceived disruption of bringing on a new supplier, lack of budget, or perhaps concerns about business risk. One or all of these can be valid, but again, don’t give way to being defensive. Instead:
· Recognize that you will need leverage to get a foothold in a competitively held account. So, in addition to the above, get your arms around the fact that you need the help of someone in the Power Base®. An individual whose influence is disproportionate to positional authority. That means you need to go Fox Hunting.
· Don’t think that because the competitor is installed, that they are aligned with a Fox. Often, they think they are, but in truth, they may not be up on the latest political dynamics in an account, which is a good example of discounted vulnerability that I mentioned earlier – one that you can exploit for more competitive leverage.
· Look for a person in the Power Base who is new to the client company or department. An individual who has the influence to work in exception to legacy practices, one who wants to establish business value quickly – whether it be cost reduction or somehow tied to revenue – and a person who is not risk averse that will take on the challenge of pulling budget from another area.
A LAST WORD OF GUIDANCE
Don’t sell based upon what you see, but on what you know – that there is a silver lining, and also know this:
· No installed competitor is truly safe if you sales approach and timing is close to being right
· Do your homework to know the client and learn about the installed competition
· Build the leverage you need to create an asymmetric advantage over the competition
· Maintain a low profile initially. Let the competition stay overconfident for as long as possible.
· Believe in yourself, your support team, and your company.
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