Over the last week or so I’ve come across some interesting articles and tips on air travel. Given the amount of time we sales people spend travelling I decided to pass them on. I hope you find them useful…
Archive | February, 2010
It’s a amazing sometimes how you find new prospects. The other evening I was in the pub with some friends and introduced a new acquaintance, Bert, to an old friend of mine, Fred. After a minute chatting it turned out that the organisation Fred worked for was a prime prospect for the service that Bert was selling. Furthermore Fred was really interested. Contact details where exchanged and the follow up arranged. Bish, bash, bosh. It doesn’t get any sweeter than that.
But… then Bert (obviously feeling very pleased) continued to rattle on for 10 minutes about the virtues of his company and products. I could see Fred’s eyes glazing over as he tried to get back to his beer. I’m certain he was by now thinking “what on Earth have I let myself in for?”
The idea with any type of prospecting (even when one lands in your lap) is to qualify the prospect and get the appointment. You do not want to get into selling at this point. It’s the wrong time and place. Your efforts may very well work against you.
- Is my product/service a good fit for the prospect?
- Does it solve a problem for her?
- Are they a good fit for my company? Do I want to do business with them?
- If so… ask for a meeting with the prospect
- Got it? Job done, now save your selling for the big day.
Most sales trainers advise you not to knock the competition and in general that’s very wise advice. Early in my career I’m embarrassed to admit that I ignored it (as most inexperienced sales people do) and came a cropper. I was competing for a good size deal and from previous experience thought that the person I was competing with had questionable ethics. When it came down the final two I couldn’t help but slip this into a conversation with the customer… I thought I was doing her a real favour. As it turned out the customer knew my competitor personally. I didn’t get the order and also had a very embarrassing conversation the next time I bumped into my competitor, who had been told about my opinion of him.
So that you don’t have to learn the hard way like me, here are three problems that arise from knocking the competition…
- It reflects badly on you and can be seen as “dirty tricks”.
- You may actually raise the profile of the competitor in the eyes of your customer. For instance if all of your product comparisons are against one particular competitor you are as good as saying “these are the guys we worry about at night”.
- You open a can of worms. The customer may be enthusiastic about your comparison with the competition and start asking you how you compare on other features that aren’t so favourable to you.
However we all know that sometimes the customer will ask you how you stack up against a competitor. Or your competitor may have “knocked” you… and the customer wants to know if their facts are correct. So if you must talk about the competition…
- Make any comparisons generic rather than specific to the competitor. So you might say “our new flanged widget offers a 20% speed increase and 10% downtime reduction compared to older unflanged designs”. This way you are seen to be making a general point and as even-handed.
- If you are forced to comment in a one-to-one way on a competitors product, talk about your features, advantages and benefits not the competitor’s short-comings. This way you are more likely to come out of it smelling of roses. Also if you try and comment on your competitor’s features you may be wrong (you haven’t been trained on them after all) and end up looking foolish.
So, as ever, engage your brain before putting your mouth into gear. It’s tempting to take a cheap shot, especially when you think you are helping the customer but better to take the high ground.