Knowledge Center

Strategies for Managing Your Competitors During the Sales Process

By Tim Deuitch

Are you losing sales to your competitors? Are you finding it difficult to position your product or solution to win the sale? In this video, Tim Deuitch, Vice President - Client Success with Strategic Enhancement Group, and Rick Van Natta, Senior Performance Consultant, discuss the importance of competitor knowledge and thorough discovery in complex sales situations.

Tim Deuitch: 00:01 I'm Tim Deuitch, Vice President - Client Success with Strategic Enhancement Group, and I'm joined by my SEG colleague, Rick Van Natta, Senior Performance Consultant.

Rick Van Natta: 00:18 Hi, Tim. How are you today?

Tim Deuitch: 00:20 Good. Rick, with complex sales where you go head-to-head with competitors, knowledge is king, and this need for knowledge is heightened just before and after you submit your proposal.

Rick Van Natta: 00:34 I have a great example, Tim. I recently closed on some business against three other qualified competitors. I spent a lot of effort doing research on the company and the industry as part of my needs discovery process, and uncovered what was important to the client and the available budget. My research also included looking at the competition as well as the comparison of the proposal's fit with the client. Understanding where we stood with respect to the competitors with their solutions is a very important piece of the overall sales picture and can help us to ensure that we are providing the right solution. By using a methodology where I could compare our solution's value with the competition, I was able to provide the right solution at the right time and be confident that the way it was positioned to the potential client, we would stand out in a positive manner.

Tim Deuitch: 01:27 Well, congrats, Rick. Recently, I was also one of three finalists, but I lost, and I wish I had used your methodology. My solution would've worked. They loved how we could customize, and I thought this had won the deal. Upfront costs matched our competitors, but I learned that long-term costs held greater weight in their decision than upfront costs. My focus was in the moment – crafting the best solution I could bring – believing that if they liked it, they'd be happy to support the full cost over time. It turns out that getting them up to speed was a different value proposition than paying for the solution over time. My competitor understood this and earned the business despite a slightly weaker upfront solution. So what do these experiences teach us? There are dos, don'ts, and options available to us in these situations.

Rick Van Natta: 02:25 Absolutely. One of the do things, or something at least in the do list, is doing a full discovery. It is essential. We must fully understand what the customer defines as the value of the solutions available to them, and value over time is crucial, especially in complex sales with multiple influencers.

Tim Deuitch: 02:48 And here's a don't: Don't expect the sale to hinge only on having better features and benefits than competitors. It's very likely a buyer or an influencer within the prospect sees all solutions as the same, but they see the ultimate value differently.

Rick Van Natta: 03:05 How do we know where we stand? The value map graphic is a great tool for plotting where you might land in the customer's eyes as compared to your competitors. I like it because it reconciles both our Do and our Don't. Accurate plotting requires open discovery of what the customer truly values in a solution and what they're willing to pay for, and it keeps our focus on the customer interests even while we compare ourselves with our competitors.

Tim Deuitch: 03:34 What do we do once we confirm where we stand on that graph? There are three considerations. If we're ahead, then we pursue, we seek a decision, we have trial close. We reinforce our position and ask, "Hey, can we go ahead and do this?" Now, if we're even with the competitors on that graph, then it might be time to reconfigure. We can adjust our solution, or maybe the pricing of the solution, in hopes of differentiating just enough while still meeting the customer needs. Or we could even collaborate with a competitor to make the buying easier for them. Now, if we're behind, we reframe. We could ask the customer what more they would need to see from us to be given greater consideration. We could ask for a delay to be able to reframe, or we could simply withdraw.

Rick Van Natta: 04:27 Managing our competition is an intentional act that must include gaining clarity from the customer on the value that they see in our offering when compared to competitors. We also have to make sure we do full discovery, as mentioned before. Surface all the customer's needs, solution, cost, implementation, and influencers so that we know where we can add value if requested. Using tools like the value map that help us have an accurate understanding of our position, and finally, exactly what you said, Tim, act on what we know – pursue, reconfigure, or reframe.

Tim Deuitch: 05:05 When we're competing side by side for business, knowledge is king. Our ability to understand the total value and fit of our solution just prior to submitting our proposal, or especially after, is the key to success. Knowing where we stand gives us the chance to make the small tweaks that just might make the difference between a sale or a loss. To learn more about how to tackle the problems sales professionals deal with every day, visit StrategicEnhancementGroup.com.

Published: February 17, 2024

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MEET THE AUTHOR

Tim Deuitch

Vice President - Client Success

Tim brings over 25 years of experience working closely with business leaders throughout the Twin Cities and the USA. He has worked within a multitude of workplace cultures and economic cycles, helping leaders and teams improve their effectiveness and results. Since joining SEG in 2007, Tim has continued his work as a change agent, helping organizations meet their goals. Tim graduated from Warren Wilson College in 1983 with a B.S. degree in social work.

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