Sales Tactics to Beat Your Competition

This month I want to share a success from a friend and customer of mine. You'll find in this story two important sales tactics for beating your competition.

From Chris Chalmers of Quova Inc:

"We sell a commodity product (geographic data) that is available from a variety of competitors and public sources. Recently, we lost a major account to a competitor, and based on our long-standing relationship with them, they consented to debrief us on what went wrong. Obviously we had an account management issue, and there had been a service problem or two. But the clincher was our competitor was perceived as "more helpful" and "more expert" because they were offering all sorts of unsolicited suggestions about how to use the product.

"That was a real surprise - Shouldn't the customer already know what they were going to do with the product? Otherwise they wouldn't have bought it, right? How much advice can you give when your product is a simple commodity?

"So we tried our competitor's approach in our next sales cycle. When the customer was talking about their perceived needs and uses of the product, we used to sit mildly and take notes. This time, we launched into a barrage of questions about the intended use our product, interspersed with short stories about how other customers were using it.

"What about this application? Have you ever considered this alternative? Here's how someone else in your situation is using it.." and so on. Instead of going into detail about the functionality of our application, which was simple and undifferentiated, we went into detail about the usage of our product, which was highly differentiated.

"Much to my surprise, it worked! Now WE were perceived as 'experts' and 'adding value' to the product - even though it was still a commodity that our competitor was selling for a lower price. Our coach really wanted to do business with us, and we were able to defend a higher price point and get our deal closed."

Thanks for sharing your story with my readers and me Chris. You and your sales team were smart to adopt your competition's tactics to beat them at their own game.

Sales Tactic - Asking questions

Aggressively asking questions is one of the most effective sales techniques you can use. Asking question uncovers the prospect's pains, wants and desires.

In Chris's words: "we launched into a barrage of questions about the intended use our product"

...instead of sitting mildly and taking notes while the prospect spoke about their needs.

Most salespeople don't go far enough with their questioning. Its not just about open versus closed questions. You need to take it further. Find out how they want to use your product in detail. Find out what excites them. Find out what they are afraid of. Find out the one or two important things that are driving them to make a purchase.

Asking questions offers the potential to increase rapport and build stronger bonds faster with your prospects. When you ask a person what is important to them, they feel more known and understood by you as they answer. This increases their receptivity giving you more opportunities to communicate in a way most effective for your prospect.

Sales Tactic - Telling Stories

Story telling offers the power to transform your product from a nebulous idea into real vision for your prospects. Features certainly have little selling power. Benefits give you a bit more selling power than features do. It is story telling though that packs the big punch because it wraps the what, why, and how of your product all together into an entertaining package that holds their attention.

Stories don't have to be long. Very effective sales stories need only be a sentence or two. In Chris's case, the stories were short: "interspersed with short stories about how other customers were using it"

...because his sales team wanted to stay on their agenda of asking questions and finding all about the prospect's proposed use of their product. This was a very smart move because when you tell longer stories, you risk losing control of the sales call if you let the prospect ask you a lot of questions.

Stories position you and your company as capable experts. You imbue yourself with the success of your customers. Your prospect sees what is possible and believes that you can help them get what they want because you are discussing a customer who is getting their desired results.

Learn from Chris Chalmers' example. Incorporate more stories into your selling and improve your questioning techniques to find out what your prospects want, why they want it, and what they will do with it. Work on these skills and closing gets so easy its almost a nonevent.

© 1999-2004 Shamus Brown, All Rights Reserved.

Shamus Brown is a Professional Sales Coach and former high-tech sales pro who began his career selling for IBM. Shamus has written more than 50 articles on selling and is the creator of the popular Persuasive Selling Skills CD Audio Program. You can read more of Shamus Brown's sales tips at http://Sales-Tips.industrialEGO.com/ and you can learn more about his persuasive sales skills training at http://www.Persuasive-Sales-Skills.com/

In The News:

“They Aren’t Using CRM!!!”  Business 2 Community
Innovation is collaboration  Mortgage Introducer
Startup agency is selling a home a day  The Australian Financial Review
Nexstar Finds Its Next Fresno Leader  Radio & Television Business Report
Is Amazon Unstoppable?  The New Yorker
Sales and Marketing Management  Business 2 Community
Why Salespeople Struggle at Leading  Harvard Business School Working Knowledge

Sales Marketing: 12 Sneaky Tricks To Help You Outsell Your Competition

Business can be like war sometimes.You may have to fight... Read More

How to Keep Projects From Spinning Out Of Control

Are you involved in projects that seem to go nowhere... Read More

8 Procedures to Take Control of Sales and Marketing

The Cash to Cash Cycle Part Three of SeriesWe're sprinting... Read More

Shorten Sales Cycles in Complex Sales Environments

Help buyers discover the answers they need to understand and... Read More

The Four ?D?s of Sales Management

Recently I stumbled across some notes that I had kept... Read More

Drop Discounts and Earn Top Dollar

Every dollar you discount is a dollar of pure profit... Read More

Snowflakes Improve Holiday Sales

Snowflakes are beautiful!For the Winter Holiday sales season handcrafted snowflakes... Read More

Back-to-School List - 10 Tips for Trade Shows

There's a new year beginning now - the school year.... Read More

Sacking Clients: Brand Power Wheel

Remember in the last message we talked about your directional... Read More

Sex, Drugs, & Rock-n-Roll at Trade Shows

Here's the Scenario...You're at a trade show. Out of town.... Read More

Rotten to the Core: The Story of How the Best and Brightest can be Ruined

The objective of an incentive is to incite action within... Read More

Discounting Your Way Into Sales Oblivion

I don't even like saying the word d---------g. I have... Read More

10 Things to Help Your Business When Sales Are Slow During the Holidays

Twiddling your thumbs and waiting for some business to come... Read More

Disclosure Laws Favor International Terrorists

The Federal Trade Commission has rule that are supposedly in... Read More

Leadership - How To Turn The Vision Into A Reality

Be clear about where you are now. Audit your strengths... Read More

Want to Increase the Amount of Business that Your Firm is Getting?

Business development is important for every business and refers to... Read More

5 Secrets to Managing Your Sales Manager Productively

Many people believe that the main reason for representatives leaving... Read More

Building Trust For Lifetime Success

Trust.One word.One very powerful word that can increase both first... Read More

Investing in Your Sales Team

While there's no easy answer to this question, there are... Read More

The Surest Way to Boost Sales

If you have a small business and you are looking... Read More

All Small Businesses Need to Gather Community Intel

How well do you know your community? As business owners... Read More

6 Steps to Avoid Losing Summer Sales

It's a fact - the online world dies down in... Read More

T. L. S. Part I: Tier Level Selling ? A Penetration Strategy

A number of sales "Gurus" have promoted the theory that... Read More

Your Extended Shadow And Successful Sales Management

In a small midwestern town, the local high school of... Read More

How You Can Raise Your Business Earnings By 50% With An Age-Old Magic Truth

Imagine increasing your business earnings by 30, 40, or 50%.... Read More