You’ve probably heard the story about the two men out hiking in the forest who stumble upon a large bear. As they are running away from the charging bear, one of them suddenly stops to change out of his hiking boots and into running shoes. “What are you doing?” one asks the other, “even in running shoes, you can’t outrun a bear!” The other man replied, “I don’t need to be faster than the bear…I just need to be faster than YOU!”
An old joke, and not a particularly good one, but it serves to illustrate an important question: just how much better than your competition do you need to be to be?
If you are working on a bid that is determined solely by price, the answer is obvious. Your goal is to be less than your nearest competitor, leaving as little money on the table as possible. Easy, right? Well, no. While you may be able to control how you respond to the spec, what margin to use, what labor rate, and all the other things that make up a typical bid, you have absolutely no control over what your competitor is going to do. How badly does your competitor want the project, will they go in low and play the change order game, or will they simply leave off some of the parts or labor pieces? Ug.
I absolutely HATE bid work.
I am too much of a control freak to put my success in the hands of a process that marginalizes the relationships I have built or the solution I have created. And purchasing managers? They will be among the first up against the wall when the revolution comes!
What about a negotiated sale? How much better do you need to be to be successful in sales? At anything? Surprisingly, not much. If most of the aspects of your customer engagement is just slightly better than your nearest competitor, you will have an incredible sales record and a healthy income to show for your efforts. That of course begs the question, “in what ways do you need to be better than your competitor, and by how much?”
- Showing professionalism at every level – If you are a regular reader of Client Centric Sales, you know that I am obsessed with being a professional. What does that mean to me? It means showing up on time every time, returning phone calls within 2 hours (seven days a week my friend…if your customer is working, you should be working!), dressing and presenting yourself well, triple-checking your work, and doing what you say you will do.
- Understanding your client’s bottom-line value drivers – Do you know the top 5 issues your prospect is facing? When it comes to your prospect’s industry, how does his company stack up against his competitors? When your client spends money, why do they spend it, and what is their process?
- Knowing your product’s or service’s value, not just its features – It is obvious that you should know your product or service inside and out. But do you know how to tie yourself, your company, and your product or service to your client’s bottom-line value drivers? Can you demonstrate this to not only the people you are selling to, but also all the way up to the C-Suite?
These are three traits that you probably already know. And truth be told, it is not easy to quantify them. In many ways, you either are or you are not a professional at every level. You either do or you do not understand your client’s bottom-line value drivers. The title of this suggests that you only need to be 1% better than your competitor. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but it fits the spirit of what we’re talking about. Editorial license!
I like to do something that most salespeople don’t do…I asked customers why they bought from me (or sometimes, from my competitor). It kept coming back to the above three traits. When my competitor didn’t understand his client’s bottom-line value drivers, all he could offer was what the customer asked for (and we all know that customers don’t always know what they need). How much value can you show in that situation? Of course, if my competitor didn’t know his product’s value, then he didn’t have an ROI – he only had a cost. Showing professionalism is a little harder for a client to speak to, but I had one that put it very simply:
“Every time I see you you’re wearing a suit.”
My customer, whom was a professional in every way you could measure it, wore a suit. By simply dressing the way that my client thought a professional should look, I had set myself apart from my competitors, most of whom wear khakis pants and golf shirts. How easy is that?
Ultimately, you can’t predict which of the above three traits will be the magic one that helps you rise above your competitor. But you can increase your level of professionalism immediately. You can learn your customer’s bottom-line value drivers in less than a week. And you can master most products and services in under a month and create a value pathway to share with your client. Think about that – in just one month, you can be the most valuable salesperson who calls on your prospect. Goodbye bid work, hello trusted advisor, value-added, ROI-justified negotiated work!