Information, tips and tricks you can use every day!

Competitive Selling: Get a Leg Up! [Week 3 of 6]

Posted by on January 25, 2012


Competitive SellingLast week
, we talked about the important place Strategic Account Development holds in the world of sales execution. But once you’ve got your sales strategies in place and things are flowing smoothly, you may find yourself faced with a further challenge: convincing prospective clients to purchase from you instead of your competitor. Will you be able to prove that your product or service is superior? Is price the most important factor? Or is there something else you should be focusing on?

Selling is often described as a numbers game. Approach the right number of prospects and you will convert a certain proportion to clients and you will meet your sales goals. This is true to a certain extent, but what you really need is are skills and tools that will help you identify the best customers, convert them, and protect them against your competitors’ sales efforts.

Competitive targeting and selling is composed of three distinct processes:

  1. Profiling prospects
  2. Converting prospects to clients
  3. Evaluating your sales methodology

Profile Prospective Clients

In this stage of the process, you must examine business trends in your industry, identify potential clients, and determine their needs. Some of this profiling is done in the office but much of it is performed during the actual meeting with your prospective client.

When applied to the sales environment, the “Iceberg Theory” tells us that clients and prospects aren’t always 100% truthfulor may inadvertently leave out vital information that could significantly affect the decision-making process. To avoid this pitfall, you must ask probing questions to uncover their true needs. Although your prospect may seem to know exactly what those needs are, asking targeted questions can reveal a much clearer picture. We advocate pre-call planning: creating a customized list of questions for each prospect and client and having them on hand for every sales call.

In the end, you must understand your client’s business so that on subsequent sales calls, you can proceed immediately to the second stage of competitive selling.

Prospect Conversion Process

There are two important factors that influence a decision to choose one vendor over another. The first is perceived value. Selling value rather than just products and features differentiates you from your competition. Your client doesn’t just need a supplier of products or services. They need a real partner who can supply greater value by anticipating needs and supplying innovative solutions to meet those needs. Doing this will set your company apart from the competition.Secondly, as you scale the “strategic relationship ladder” with your client, you become an ever-more-valuable resource and are much harder for the competition to unseat. When you reach this stage, you are in the enviable position of not having to re-sell the product or service every single time. Instead, you are a trusted consultant who can “advance the sale” by offering better solutions to fit your client’s needs.

Evaluate

The final step is to use the “SMART” system we mentioned last week to evaluate and critique not only your selling skills, but also how effectively you have met your clients’ needs. Remember: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-bound goals are a must for everyone on the sales team. From this deeper level of understanding, you’ll watch your sales grow beyond anything you’ve achieved before.

In our customized Competitive Targeting and Selling workshop, we thoroughly explore these concepts, practice the skills until they are second nature, and send participants away with the tools to meet and exceed all their sales goals. At CGWA, our 5 targeted Sales Execution Workshops have each been developed, tested, and refined in the field—in response to real issues faced by even the most outstanding sales teams. Next week, we’ll talk about the third of these workshops: Sales Negotiation Skills. Be sure to come back then!


Account Development: Strategy you can’t live without [Week 2 of 6]

Posted by on January 18, 2012

Account Development

Last week, we talked about the world of sales execution. A focused, seasoned sales force can succeed on its own merits through sheer force of will. But that uphill push, with all the accompanying stress, too often leads to resignations, terminations and even total failure.

Truly strategic account development, on the other hand, will allow your team to constructively engage their clients, support each other’s efforts and—most importantly—achieve their sales goals.

So why is creating a sales strategy such a daunting task? The truth is, it doesnt need to be difficult or complicated, either in its creation or implementation. What it does require is thoughtfulness from all levels of the sales team. Strategic account development can be divided into four distinct stages:

1. Market Analysis

As in any undertaking of this sort, the process begins with data collection. Pertinent business trends, key accounts and their decision makers, plus company goals (yours and your clients’) must be identified and prioritized. Adequate time and effort must be given to this process of “account targeting” and must involve all levels of the sales team. It is the basis for everything to come.

2. Strategy Development

The development of the strategic plan requires some serious critical thinking. At the very least, it must incorporate company objectives, the strengths and weaknesses of the competition, and provide customer-centric solutions that will drive sales growth. In addition, as a sub-strategy, an account profile should be completed for every client. This profile details the tactics used and steps followed to retain and grow this specific client.

3. Solutions Presentation

Engagement is the key to success in account development. If you can prove that you understand the needs of the client, then you will inevitably move up the “strategic relationship ladder. As you do, your relationship with the client will advance from mere tolerance of your role as a salesperson to an intimate dependence on you as a solutions provider. This concept is fundamental to building and maintaining long term, lucrative clients. In addition, it’s imperative at this stage to gather further information to fine-tune solutions for your client.

4. Ongoing Evaluation

It can’t be said enough: Monthly and quarterly, critically-driven business reviews must be conducted and must include the entire sales team. Each member of the sales team has a unique perspective that bears on the whole. We apply the proven SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound) system to integrate new ideas, substrategies and goals.

All this is just a very small taste of what happens in the classroom and in the field during our Strategic Account Development workshop. At CGWA, our 5 targeted Sales Execution Workshops are each developed, tested, and refined in the field—in response to real sales execution issues faced by super-successful commercial teams. Next week, we’ll talk about the second of these workshops: Competitive Targeting and Selling. Meet me there!