Sales and Sales Management Blog

August 31, 2007

Recognizing Your Biggest Competitor

Filed under: prospecting,Uncategorized — Paul McCord @ 7:14 am

If you were asked to name your biggest competitor, whom would you name?  A specific company?  Maybe a specific salesperson?  Possibly, you view your biggest competitor as a product instead of a company or salesperson?

Competition is all around.  It may seem that competitors lurk around every corner.  Moreover, the bigger the competitor, the more fear it engenders.  For some salespeople simply hearing the name of a big company that competes in the same industry strikes fear in their heart.  For others, hearing that they are competing for a sale with a particular salesperson my cause them to determine they’ve already lost the deal.

Yet, that major company or even that big name salesperson that always seems to beat you out isn’t your primary competitor.  Certainly, they may be formidable.

Still, they really aren’t your biggest competitor.  Your primary competitor is far more difficult to outsell.  You run across your biggest competitor far more often than you run across that Big Name Company or top salesperson.  If fact, you compete against your biggest competitor every time you meet a prospect.  And more than likely, you lose far more sales to this competitor than you do to all other competitors combined.

Who is this omnipresent competitor?  It’s your prospect’s decision to do nothing because of either apathy or indecision. 

More sales are lost to the decision to do nothing than all other sales combined.  Indeed, this ultimate competitor doesn’t just compete on discretionary purchases.  It is an active participant even in purchases where you believe the prospect must do something.  That option of doing nothing is an available option—even if making that decision costs the prospect time and/or money. 

Moving your prospect to make a decision, even if that decision is to go with another salesperson’s product or service, is your central problem.  Of course, you want your prospect to make a decision in your favor.  Unless you eliminate the twin demons of apathy and indecision, which are at the heart of the decision to do nothing, you cannot make the sale you want.

The earlier in the sales process you can determine if your prospect is poised to make a no-decision decision, the more frustration you can save yourself–and possibly convert the no-decision into a decision.

What are the signs of apathy and indecision? 

Apathy is the most easily identified.  If your prospect is fidgeting, constantly checking his or her watch, doesn’t ask questions, is trying to multi-task while you’re speaking, or is obviously bored or distracted, you’re dealing with a prospect who is either distracted by other business or is apathetic. 

If the prospect is preoccupied because of other pressing issues, reschedule the appointment.  You’ll get nowhere at this time.  Allow your prospect the courtesy of taking care of their immediate business and rearrange your meeting.

On the other hand, apathy demands a wake-up call.  If you can’t get the prospect interested, you may as well move on.

Try engaging the prospect by asking pointed questions about their needs or issues.  Alternatively, if you know a bit about their situation, ask what the consequences of doing nothing will be.  Or, using a more direct approach of pointing out the consequences of doing nothing will be more effective.  You can’t lose what you don’t have, and confronting the issue head on will either move the prospect to engage you or prove that the prospect either doesn’t care or have an interest in resolving the issue at this point. 

Either way, you win.  You either bring the prospect into the process and gain their attention, or you move on to another prospect where your time is better spent.

Indecision is more difficult to deal with. 

A prospect that cannot make a decision is not only frustrating you, but they are frustrating themselves also.  Worse still, while apathy is relatively easy to spot early in the sales process, indecision tends to become evident toward the end of the process, after you and your prospect already have a significant amount of time and energy invested in the process.

Indecisive prospects must be lead to a decision—either to make a positive decision in your favor or to decide to do nothing.  Anything is better than someone who sits on the fence and cannot make a decision.

You have several tactics you can employ with an indecisive prospect:

Consequences of no action:  Review with the prospect what the consequences of taking no action or deciding not to purchase will cost in terms of time, money, energy, or prestige.  Depending upon the product or service you are selling, the loss of any one or a combination of the above may be the natural outcome of not purchasing.  By reviewing the negative consequences, you may move the prospect to make a decision.

The assumptive close:  Simply make the decision for the prospect and begin completing the necessary paperwork, forcing the prospect to accept to your decision to complete the sale or to stop you.  Either way, a decision has been made.  If the prospect stops you, you’ll have to dig to find out why, and then address any objections.

There must be something bothering you:  Is the indecision really masking an objection?  If you use the assumptive close, you may uncover an objection.  If you choose not to assume the close, you must still determine if the indecision is really an inability to make a decision or if it is covering a deeper concern.  Asking your prospect if there are concerns he or she has about the product or the sale is a legitimate question.  Flushing out objections masked as indecision can get your sale back on track.

Demand a yes or no:  Since you have nothing to lose, simply demanding a yes or no costs you nothing and forces your prospect to make a decision.  There is nothing wrong with asking a client for a definitive decision if you are convinced that the prospect is simply incapable of coming to a decision.  As with the apathetic prospect, at least you know your time can be better spent with another prospect.

No one wants to lose a sale.  Still, you cannot afford to invest time and energy with a prospect that simply has no interest or who is incapable of making a decision.  Since making a decision to do nothing is your biggest competitor, and the two major culprits of a decision to do nothing are apathy and the inability to make a decision, you must be prepared to deal them.  If you learn to recognize apathy and to handle indecision, you’ll not only save a great deal of time and frustration, your sales will increase as well. 

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