Selling Against Goliath: How To Take On The “Big Guys” And Win. Written by Dave Stein
Are you a salesperson representing a smaller company that competes against “big guys”? If so, you probably find yourself feeling like underdog in age-old tale of David and Goliath. And—the story’s biblical outcome notwithstanding—you’ve probably noticed that in today’s hyper-competitive business world it’s usually Goliath who trounces David. Sigh. Am I fighting a losing battle? you wonder. Is there any way I can ever defeat a company with more manpower, more resources and, well . . . more status in eyes of prospect? As a matter of fact, you can bring down that Goliath of a competitor, says Dave Stein, consultant, trainer and author of book How Winners Sell: 21 Proven Strategies To Outsell Your Competition and Win The Big Sale (Bard Press, 2002, ISBN: 1-885167-55-5, $24.95). “When smaller team loses a sale, (or larger one, for that matter,) it's for one of two reasons,” he explains. “Either they didn't properly qualify opportunity, or competition outsold them. There is no third alternative. When you understand these two eventualities, you can take steps to improve your selling capabilities.” Stein offers some insights on how to take on your Goliath—and win sale: Qualification: Is this really a sound prospect?
Qualification is process by which we determine if it is worth our time and effort to continue to pursue a sales opportunity. It’s a process, not an event. That means you don't qualify your sales prospect once, when initial contact is made and then, with a smile on your face and your head in sand, blindly do whatever you believe (or your prospect tells you) it takes to win their business. You qualify vigilantly and consistently. Why? Because things change. Because buyers have been known to mislead sellers. Because sometimes a buyer doesn’t even know who in his own company is going to make real decision favoring one supplier over another. When you are qualifying your prospect, you are asking them, and yourself, questions like: When are they going to buy? Why are they going to buy? What are they going to buy? Does our product or service fit their requirements? Who is making final decision? What is decision process? Who is competition? And certainly, how will they pay for what it is that I am selling? There are many, many more. Qualification criteria for smaller companies who compete against big guys must contain questions about prospect's buying preferences. For example, you need to ask yourself, "What evidence do I have that prospect will do business with a company of our size?" Also you'll need to know what guidelines they must follow in terms of suppliers' company size, revenues or financial viability.
Does size matter? (Knowing when to move on)
It's hard to ask these questions, but it is irresponsible not to. You must be certain that if you meet or exceed all prospect's requirements, size does not matter. You may have greatest product, innovative services, committed people, stellar customer satisfaction levels, top product quality or anything else that you consider of value—but if size matters, little else will measure up. And if size does matter—and if you can’t convince prospect fairly quickly that it shouldn't—hit road and move on to another opportunity. You'll need to be careful here. Sometimes size issue is less obvious. For example, your prospect may have a requirement that you implement their Supply Chain Management System in twenty-five plants within a year's time. That's a legitimate business requirement that is directly related to size. And if you are a smaller supplier, without pre-established partners with service firms who are capable of delivering service levels required, for example, your chances of winning are remote. What all this means is that there are certain opportunities for which you should not compete, because you cannot win. Sorry, but that's a fact.
Once they’re qualified, what do you do? Answer: competitive selling.
You're going to need to influence your prospect's decision criteria, so that perceived value of your competitor's size, and other size-related capabilities are neutralized, if not diluted. Here is a simple, well-used example. Let's say you sell for a smaller company that provides programming services and you’re up against a major global firm. Based upon preferences and needs of buyers, you may decide to use "small-fish-in-a-big-pond" approach. It goes like this: "Ms. Prospect: there are few people who would not be impressed by MKPG's size, reach and resources. I'm sure they proudly reference some very prominent clients. However, you might consider that a project such as yours, although highly critical for you, might very well not have importance and therefore not generate ongoing attention within their firm that their premier clients’ projects would. It's only natural…" From that point, a discussion of how you would manage their project and business relationship in future—stressing executive attention and importance of their success to your success—would propel you forward. If you are effective with this approach, you will have moved size as well as power of their client list down in importance and executive attention and interest in their success up.
Transform Yourself from a Salesperson into a BusinesspersonWritten by Dave Stein
If I told you that one of most important characteristics of sales excellence in today’s hypercompetitive business environment was not to be a salesperson, would you think you subscribed to wrong magazine? Well, I have a good reason for saying it. I’m not really saying you shouldn’t be a salesperson. I’m saying that to be a top sales professional, you have to be a businessperson — because businesspeople make most effective salespeople. And why is that true? Because what you are really selling is business improvement. In terms of selling, what do I mean by “businessperson”? A businessperson is someone who can transcend product or service she is selling to reach higher ground — ability to understand, articulate, and drive contribution her business can make to client’s business. What is business value of your product or service? To communicate this to your prospect convincingly, you must be more than a sales rep. You have to be a businessperson and, using business competencies, view and present your offering as platform upon which your prospect can achieve their business plan going forward. Characteristics of a Businessperson Being a businessperson not only means developing these business skills, such as ability to read and interpret financial statements, but it also involves a way of thinking and being. Here are some of behaviors and traits I have observed in sales winners — people I would also consider businesspeople: uThey know that if they give their customer what he needs, they will then get what they need. uThey make rational decisions, rather than allowing emotion to guide them. uThey follow orderly procedures and processes, rather than taking random actions. uThey plan for future and have discipline and motivation to execute that plan. uThey seek out truth through insightful, probing questions, rather than blindly accepting what they are told. uThey accept responsibility for their own actions and for those who work on their behalf. uThey know how to use technology to improve not only their own but their customer’s business position. uThey work for a win-win solution, knowing that anything else will ultimately be lose-lose. If you don’t want your client to treat your product or service as a commodity, you have to differentiate your offering from your competitor’s. It comes down to perception. If your clients see you as just a salesperson, they won’t respect you way they would someone they viewed as a businessperson. Here’s how they think: A businessperson is a professional; a businessperson is there for long haul. Salespeople are all same, interchangeable; they’re just after a quick buck. This perception, common among top executives, is unfair, but it’s a fact of life. That’s why people who sell for a living adopt titles such as Marketing Representative, Business Development Manager, and Client Acquisition Executive on their business cards. Take a good look at yourself. Read list of behaviors again. Can you identify areas where you need to improve? What should you do? First, accept fact that you, and you alone, are responsible for your own personal and professional growth. No one is going to barge through your door and change you. You’ve already recognized that a change is needed. That’s toughest step. Expand Your General Business Knowledge How much do you know about business in general? Do you know how businesses operate? What about your company? What about your three best clients? Can you articulate their visions? Can you identify their short- and long-term strategies?