As the progressive salesperson you are, where knowing your competition is concerned, you cannot afford to be flying blind. In a session I had a while back, I was disturbed at how little the delegates knew of their competition. Their average sales experience was two years and yet they struggled to complete the competitor mapping matrix I use. Even knowing basic things, like what the competition’s product offering was, were an uphill task. They were flying blind!
Note to self. That girl you keep deferring to hit on, is spoilt for choice of men who are already doing so. Likewise you do not have a monopoly over prospects or customers. Your prospects are someone else’s prospects. And, just as a pal of mine once told me, by virtue of being the ones who are hit on, ladies understand the courting game much faster than men. Likewise, your prospects have most probably already been presented or sold to before you came along; that makes them wiser, more knowledgeable, and cautious. Then you come along flying blind and BAM!-you hit a wall. He tells you that Wahandisi Engineering’s pump is superior or more affordable than yours. Your jaw drops; you’re stumped; you didn’t even know this and it’s on the homepage of their website!
Besides knowledgeably covering your flanks, another reason why it is important to know what your competition offers is because it’s your raison d’etre. If you cannot bring value as a salesperson there are cheaper, more effective ways to distribute. The reason why you exist is to guide your prospect towards attaining a lozenge for his pain. This will involve showing him why the medicine he has been taking is exacerbating his pain and how yours will alleviate it; to do this you will need to understand medicine in general, not just yours in particular. Giving the customer relief will also include referring him to another doctor because your lozenge doesn’t cure him; and because your intent is on him getting better, you happily refer him to the competition. And no you won’t lose him; he’ll respect you for that and you will have done your job.
Gathering intelligence is not meant to pitch, nor bad mouth your product against your competition. “Kahawa Coffee is laced with cannabis hence the kick you get out of it”or “unlike Filamu Production, we don’t charge you for the models”. No. Pitches are done in direct correlation to how they solve the prospects problem and you understand your competition so as to remain the go-to person for your prospect.
There are many ways of gathering intelligence. It’s not a mission impossible. You can ask Google; you can be a mystery shopper, caller or “e-mailer”; you can befriend someone in the “enemy” camp or better still synergy with them; you can glean the information from brochures at the reception or the media. Or you can ask the most obvious yet neglected source-the “patient” himself! He knows how the medicine looks, tastes and acts. He is a repository of information. All the “guys hitting on him” have been sharing their information with him. This resource is especially valuable for sales of big-ticket items for which the sales cycle is longer and the sale itself a project involving several players in the seller and buyer camps. In such industries, the information about how say, a system works, will rarely be in the public domain. Getting the prospects guard down allows him to freely share the information you need.
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