>How can you possibly win if you do not know who you are competing against! Defining, understanding and gaining intimate knowledge of your competition is an important step in sales success. If you know your competition, you are much better positioned to communicate the strengths, benefits and overall value of your product or service. Makes sense doesn’t it?

Before you can “know” your competition, you have to clearly define your competition. The most effective way to do that is to examine your lost sales. Often I ask my clients who their competition is and they list four or five company names. Yet, when we take a little time to analyze the data, those are not the companies they lost business to. You don’t define your competition, the market and the prospect does. So review your sales log and identify who your prospects have determined is your competition, and who they have determined adds more value than you. This is your competition.

Next you have to “know” your competitors strengths and weaknesses. That means it is time for a competitor analysis done via competitor shop. You can have this professionally done, or simply get your family and friends and go visit your competition in person, on the phone, and/or online. Find out what their sales pitch is, what their value points are, and what – if any – weaknesses you can uncover. This is a terrific opportunity to meet their sales people, understand how they engage their prospects, what their follow-up process is as well as the price, features and overall quality of their product or service.

Lastly, you want to define how you stack up. Where are you similar? What opportunities do you have to beat your competition, and where and why do you lose out? Then start filling in the gaps. Use this information to redefine your sales pitch to emphasize your competitor strengths, and redefine similarities as minimal expectations. Then work with your team to turn your competitor weaknesses into opportunities for improvement.

I was working with a small hotel chain in South Florida who defined their competition as the Hilton, the Marriott and other chain’s of that size. We performed a small competitor analysis, talking with several past customers that had regularly returned to South Florida but not to this hotel chain. What we discovered was this chain was not competing with the Hilton, Marriott and other large hotels, their competition was actually small family owned motels and bed and breakfasts. In addition, people were choosing these competitors over the small chain because of atmosphere. They were about the same price, about the same in terms of convenience and amenities, but the smaller motels and bed and breakfasts emphasized service. They offered homemade cookies and milk at bed time, cocktail hour for business travelers and a live wake up call rather than a buzzer or recording. Understanding this, we were able to change our marketing and service delivery and reposition our strengths to truly compete in the market.

Remember, you control the sales call. Your asking the questions, listening for information and opportunity, then providing a support statement to prove benefit and value. If you understand how to position your product or service to outshine the competition then you will turn your prospects into customers.