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Top 3 Sales Consequences for Ignoring Competitive Intelligence

Posted by David Donlan on Thu Feb 21, 2019 08:00 AM

The sales process we know today is remarkably different from the sales process of a decade ago. Years ago, prospects had an average of four to five choices for any product or service they were looking to purchase. Today, that number has spiked by more than five times. Now, markets are highly populated, with most companies having on average 25 competitors in their space.

The increased competition has changed that way we sell products and services, prospect to drive new business, and manage sales pipeline as executive leaders. In other words, sales is facing new challenges in competitive selling, and the consequences go all the way to the top.

Consequence #1 – A Competitor Blindsides You

Whether it’s enterprise or transactional sales, individual contributors are required to provide a sound sales process. Due to the competitive nature of every industry and that the buyer now has most of the control during the sale, every deal is in jeopardy to be lost by price, feature, or just a better salesperson. Buyers have become more inquisitive, so they are more likely to look at a competitor during any stage of the sales process.

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Even when the proposal has been submitted for signature, no deal is done until it’s done. Competitors, as we speak, are trolling your LinkedIn networks to find out who you have recently connected with and reaching out immediately knowing that the deal is hot. To try to win, you need to offer a discount or a shorter term agreement, otherwise you’ll lose the deal.

How do you avoid this? Make sure your sales team’s messaging or battlecards are dynamic and wired up to the market in real time. Know where your competitors are going by capturing website page changes and listening to their community forums. Take this intel and find a process to communicate with sales the message and the impact.

Consequence #2 – Prospecting Gets Harder

With more businesses investing in inbound marketing, most prospects are looking at multiple vendors before the actual sales process begins. Therefore, getting someone to take a discovery call on your timeline is very difficult. Ten years ago, 40 dials and 40 emails would get you three or four meetings a day. Now we are lucky to get just one for that effort. We hire appointment setters or BDRs to fill this void, which leads to increasing quotas and pricing on deals. Without awareness of what your competitor is doing to market to your audience, you cannot provide the best message to out prospect them.

Your competitors are winning deals where your name was never mentioned. Nothing keeps a CEO up at night as much as a “deal went down, and you didn’t even get an at-bat.”

How do you avoid this? We used to prospect with ROI calculations. ”You use this concept, and you increase your bottom line by X.” Today, the ROI is dead. Your sales team needs to know their competitors’ weaknesses so they can prospect with the “economic value.” ROI infers: we buy this solution, we think we will see everything go up and to the right. “Economic value” means: we buy this solution and no matter what, we won’t fail. Identify the weaknesses of your competitors’ DNA on Glassdoor and use it in your prospecting to remind the market where your company’s strengths are, and what that means for economic value.

Consequence #3 – Sales Leadership Misses Targets

Now that more and more companies are getting blindsided by the competition, pipeline management needs to change. Sales forecasting and pipeline management has been a science. For example, say your sales rep has a quarterly quota of $250K, and they close 25% of their opportunities. Therefore, they must have $1 Million in pipeline at the beginning of every quarter.

As a sales leader, what are the new systems that you are putting in place to ensure that this math stays consistent? If you lose one more deal to the competition per rep, this will throw off the entire forecast.  The consequences for missing sales targets consistently will cause a little pain in the short term, such as lost commission. In the long-term, missing targets leads to missed earning calls, losing out on a great investment, taking a down round to stay alive, or worse.

How do you avoid this? Put a strong system in place to ensure that your team isn’t missing targets. Provide your team with sales trainings, sales enablement materials, and ad-hoc assistance when they need help with their pipeline. Keep an eye on competitive deals and loss reasons for each rep to manage changes in your market dynamics and get ahead of sales threats.

Every customer trusts that you're the expert when it comes to your own product as well as your market. However, do you know what is actually going on beyond the details of your own company’s solutions? This lack of knowledge leads to these serious consequences in sales. Today, it’s not just about being an expert of your own product, you also need to have more industry knowledge than your competitor to win.

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