Regardless of whether you’re the market leader or a start-up; operating in a flooded sector or lucky enough to have just a small handful of competitors, there’s no question that gaining the competitive advantage will significantly increase your chances of winning the deal. But there’s so much more to gaining the competitive advantage than just having a great solution because, chances are, all of your competitors will also have great solutions. The advantage comes from your ability to identify and communicate the value of your solution.
Here are my 3 Top Tips for ensuring you gain the competitive advantage:
1. Know your customer AND their industry
Long gone are the days of sales people rocking up to a customer, knowing nothing about them. The internet, social media (most notably, LinkedIn) and intelligent CRM systems mean there is simply no excuse for this. But there is a distinct difference between doing a bit of background research, versus uncovering the type of information, that not only will help to position you as an expert on your customer’s business, but will enable you to identify real insights for your customer and give you that competitive advantage.
This type of information cannot be gleaned from a quick 10 minute google search. Instead it requires an in-depth understanding of your specific customer and of the industry sector they operate within. It requires you to build relationships with a range of people across the organisation and sector as a whole. Of course, when you extend your research in this way, it becomes more time-consuming and so you need to be confident that it will bring a return. This is, of course, why more and more organisations are choosing to structure their sales teams according to customer sector, enabling them to market themselves as ‘sector experts’.
Keeping up to date with what’s going on with your customers and their industries means you’ll be one of the first to know when things such as new legislation, scientific breakthroughs and new product developments happen – all things that can impact your customer’s needs and help you to spot opportunities which can translate into insights for your customers.
2. Solve a problem, rather than just sell a solution
As a sales person, your main focus should be in solving your customer’s problems. Selling a solution is not enough if that solution doesn’t solve a specific problem. Buying decisions are motivated by either a move towards some form of gain (making or saving money), or away from some form of pain (reducing or eliminating risk). The further away from pain and/or closer to gain, you can take your customer, the more appealing your solution becomes and the greater your advantage. This advantage is accelerated when, using your sector and customer expertise outlined above, you are able to identify insights for your customer, leading me on very nicely to my final tip:
3. Clearly and comprehensively articulate the value your solution brings
The value your solution can bring to the customer is perhaps the area that is most likely to give you the competitive advantage and that value comes from the movement away from pain and/or towards gain. The skill of the sales person lies in the ability to identify ALL of the value your solution offers and in being able to clearly articulate this to your customer.
In creating value, the sales person must look beyond the immediate solving of the customer’s problem and consider the impact of the solution on every other aspect of the business. For example, your customer’s initial problem may have been a need to reduce their carbon footprint – and your solution reduces this significantly, but perhaps it also then enables them to win a share in a new market. This, in turn, will drive their bottom-line profit. If all you’ve done is present the value of your solution as a reduction in their carbon footprint, you’re significantly under-valuing your solution. If, however, you are able to attach a number to each and every element of your customer’s business where your solution will have an impact, you’ll gain the competitive advantage over competitors, less thorough with their value impact.
When creating value, make sure you’re not just plucking numbers out of the air, you’ll quickly lose credibility. Ensure you understand the numbers and validate them with your customer. Value waterfalls are a really great way of helping you articulate the value of your solution by providing a visual representation of the numbers.
If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help your sales people develop the skills to clearly identify, communicate and capture value give us a call on 01778 382733 or visit our Contact page to send us an email.