You cannot underestimate the tenacity of your competition regardless of the size of the competitive business.
The world’s economies are generally in a holding pattern. Today’s environment is truly a tough competitive environment. You cannot underestimate the tenacity of your competition regardless of the size of the competitive business. This makes it difficult for businesses of every size to succeed.
One strategy that you could adopt is to find or create an unfair advantage. When you are trying to get a sale, there are many factors over which you have no control. Until the check clears you may not be able to figure out how to actually get the sale. Many times in the sales process, I have seen everything done right, only to have the sale fall apart for no apparent reason.
How does this happen?
It is all about people. Somewhere along the sales cycle, you must find or create the unfair advantage. Remember that at the end of the sales process someone is going to sign off on the purchase order and until that actually occurs, you cannot count on the sale. At the end of the day, the key to getting the sale is to get an unfair advantage that no competitor can ever overcome.
This will allow the buyer to sign off on that purchase order. This key idea, creating the unfair advantage, may be as simple as getting the support of all of the customer’s technical staff. Or, it may be something as simple as your wife’s conversation with the buyer’s wife at a charity function (where your wife reiterates how committed your company is to the success of the buyer’s company). Or, it may be having an exclusive territory or product agreement with the manufacturer.
There are many types of unfair advantages and ways to create them!
Another simple way to create an unfair advantage is to have your supplier create a product that only you have available for sale. You can have special features added to the product that insure the product you are selling is totally unique from the product that any other seller has available. This is especially powerful when you can have a number of distinguishing features added to the product you have available.
In the consumer retail space you may be able to create a very distinct product differentiation. Auto manufacturers use variations on this strategy all the time when they build packages of options that are added onto basic car models. You want to make it difficult to find a comparable product at a similar price. Sometimes a simple strategy based upon price will suffice as the unfair advantage.
One such strategy is buy two products get one free. In this case you are trying to hold onto both your sales volume and margins instead of the simple strategy of just offering a 33 percent discount. All product environments are competitive and if the area that you are trying to bring your new product into is really hot, competition will develop very quickly so you must get all of your sales closed quickly to get the buzz and market momentum that you need.
Anything that you can do to stop the competition from closing in on your sale is key to your success. An advantage that I always liked is understanding the competitor’s positions and then positioning my product or service away from their strengths. This understanding can help you create an unfair advantage.
- What does the competitor really do or sell?
- Are they stronger in manufacturing or service?
- Do they manufacturer their own products?
- What is the state of their product?
- When will a new model come onto the market?
- What problems are your competitors having?
- When was the last time that they delivered a product on time?
- Is there a time when the competition would be vulnerable to a new product introduction or price cut?
You want to think of what factors will give you any type of advantage and then try to magnify the advantage until it looms large in the eyes of potential purchasers. The magnified issues will create your current unfair advantage.
Remember, if you create an unfair advantage, the competition will not rest or give up easily. They will counter and you will need to stay nimble and continually modify your strategies to be successful.
Create the unfair advantage and you will succeed!
By Kenneth J. Thurber, PhD
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