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Balancing Your Competitive Strategy

Like all of us, I’ve been watching a lot of Olympics this week, and it’s raised some interesting questions.  One is around different competitive approaches, and which is most effective.  A close second has been how water polo players don’t drown!  But regarding competitive strategy, there are two general approaches:

Competitor focused

Some athletes really focus on their competition. It gets them fired up and they try to get into their competitor’s head. A vivid example was a “stare down” between swimmers before their heat, which is funny to me, considering they compete in googles and mostly under water.

Internal focused

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen athletes completely focus on their own internal preparation. They’re keenly aware of their strengths. They know why they win, and they focus on amplifying that as much as possible.  

Both of these are garnering success at the olympic level.  In sales, these approaches are very similar. For instance:

  • Some reps completely fixate on their competition. Most of their time is spent seeking ways to zero in on specific advantages they have and amplify that as much as possible. I even see some reps reduce themselves to bad mouthing competitors by name.  (A practice that almost always backfires.)   While I believe you need a strategy for specific competitors, the reality is that you often have limited knowledge regarding your competition.
  • I also see reps who focus solely on amplifying their strengths. They know what their solution does well, and amplify that as much as possible.  Their strategy is to run a sales process that emphasizes those strengths.  Sellers who take that approach work to influence the customer’s decision criteria to include those strengths. And if you’re able to do this...you will almost always win.  

Balance

The reality is...I think you need both approaches. You need to know why you win, and run a process that emphasizes that.  But, you also need to gather as much competitive intelligence as possible, and recognize those competitors and differentiate against them without bad mouthing or reducing yourself to a level that hurts your reputation.

In summary, check point your deals. Ask yourself:

  • Are you executing a balanced strategy?
  • Are you emphasizing your strengths?
  • Are you able to influence the customer’s decision criteria to include those strengths?
  • Do you know all of your direct competitors?
  • Are you communicating clear differentiation versus the competition?

 

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