Best Practices # 18: Using information about competitors
Best Practices # 18: Has a systematic approach to collecting, processing, storing and using information about competitors.
By Dave Kahle
Here again is one of those best practices that mark the behavior of the superstars, the top five percent of the sales force. Most sales people never even consider this.
Every sales person has to compete for the business. In some cases, there can be dozens of competitors, and in other cases, only one. Regardless, the five percenter sales people understand that the more knowledge they have of the competitors, the more equipped they are to present their own offerings in a positive light, and, therefore, the more sales they will earn.
But knowledge of the competitor doesn’t come by osmosis, creeping into our heads during our sleeping hours without any effort on our parts. Like everything else in the sales professional’s job, it takes disciplined, methodical effort.
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To master this Best Practice, you must first decide that coming to know and understand your competitors, and thus being able to predict their actions and counter their assertions, is a good thing for you to do. If you don’t care, then read no further. But if you think it would give you an advantage, then you must first commit to collecting that information.
Once you decide to do it, the question is “What is the best way?”
I’ve found it helpful to create a folder for each competitor, both electronic and hardcopy. You will, in your day-to-day efforts, come across bits and pieces of information about your competitors. One customer will share a price with you; at another, you’ll see a sell sheet with a competitor’s business card stapled to it, etc. Every time you come across a small bit of information about the competitor, take note of it. Then save those notes in your competitor folders. Periodically review those collected notes. After a period of time, you’ll have enough notes to allow you to begin to gain an understanding of what the competitor is saying and doing.
And that will provide you a little bit of an edge, which will translate into sales that you may not have attained otherwise.
The key, as always, is methodical, disciplined effort. Not every sales person has the discipline, nor the heart for this kind of subtlety.
That’s why this is a Best Practice of the best sales people.
If you’d like to dig deeper into this idea, consider Pod-14, “Differentiating Yourself from the Competition,” and Pod-41, “How to Deal with the Competition Like a Pro,” – two on-line lessons in The Sales Resource Center.