Your competitor is NOT “the competition”

Two giant competitive changes in the selling environment have already happened. Either one by itself blows your traditional sales process out of the water. Both have to do with your competition.

  • Competitor #1 – The customer who can learn
  • Competitor #2 – No Decision

Let’s take a look at each and then take a look at what we can do. (The good news is, there is a fairly straightforward strategy!)

Competition in the Sales ProcessCompetitor #1 – The customer who can learn:

How many of your customers and prospects have the ability to learn? Let’s go with a low-ball estimate and say 99.99%.

Brent Adamson, co-author of “The Challenger Sale,” has stated, “Your Number One competitor today is your own customer and their ability to learn on their own.I believe him!

Adamson has also cited more recent “Challenger Sale” research indicating that 57% of the decision process is done before a buyer contacts any seller. You have certainly seen %-of-the-decision process numbers in the 50%-70% for several years now. Who really cares if it’s 50% or 70% or whatever HUGE %??? The fact is, most of the decision process is over before your sales rep even enters the fray.

Those crazy customers actually think they can learn enough to make an intelligent decision without your help!

True, but focus on what they most certainly don’t think. They don’t think they can learn enough to make an intelligent decision without any help. They all have their sources. They all have their research processes.

If they do a Google search and happen to find useful insight published by someone who supplies stuff similar to yours, who do they think has expertise? You? I don’t think so. If Brand X, Brand Y and Brand Z have supplied all the customer’s education for the first 57% of the decision process, who gets invited to participate in the other 43%? You? I don’t think so.

Competitor #2 – No Decision:

The one-person “decision team” is pretty much extinct. Business processes are complex. The problems associated with them are also complex. The root causes of those problems originate from a wide variety of internal and external forces. Deciding how to address the problems therefore, involves multiple people from multiple departments; each of whom probably has a unique knowledge base and learning process.

Even if one of the players really does have the best solution, nothing can happen until the other (typically 3-5) other players become equally educated.

So what’s a sales leader to do? As noted above, the strategy is pretty straightforward. (Notice that I didn’t say, “quick and easy to implement!”) It’s a two-step process that needs to be smoothly integrated into the early stages of your sales process. We call it Sales Process Media.

  1. Create a digital library that educates customers and prospects soup to nuts
  2. Make it hard for a conscientious decision team member to avoid your digital content. Be everywhere!

Step one, while not difficult, DOES take considerable time and effort. Simply (and I use that word tongue-in-cheek…) embed the core knowledge of the sales team in a collection of text, images, audio and video.

Step two IS difficult. Fortunately, there’s an interim baby step that is really easy! The hard part is developing and implementing a killer SEO strategy. The ridiculously easy and surprisingly effective baby step is to point every customer to a relevant bit (or bits) of your digital content in every conversation, e-mail and voice mail. EVERY ONE!

More to come on how to deal with the “21st Century Competitor,” so please consider subscribing. Also:

…and since I referred to one of my favorite sales management books early, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation

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