On the surface it seems simple. If asked to name your top competitor, you’ll probably come up with a business name or two. At Ford Motor Company, their primary competitor these days is probably Honda. For Google it’s Microsoft. For Coke it’s still Pepsi. Taken in these terms, it’s easy to believe that your top competitor is one that keeps your business on its toes – offensively and defensively – to protect or capture market share.
But you might be surprised to learn that your biggest competitor isn’t the larger business down the street. It’s not the big-box store or the mom-and-pop shop, and it’s not even a business on the internet. Sure, these are your competition and you do need to give them your attention. But they are by no means your most troublesome and persistent competitor. So who is the biggest threat to your company’s success?
Actually, your biggest competitor is not a “who,” but a “what.” And it’s a what that has no physical presence, no tangible form. Your biggest competition is invisible but ever-present. It is… indifference. Customer indifference – or purposeful inaction – steals more potential business from your company than any corporate foe.
You see, when a prospect takes a “wait and see” approach and decides to, well, not decide, they are sending as clear a signal as they would be if they said “yes.” By purposefully taking no action, the prospect is telling you that they don’t see you or your solution as being different or better than what they are currently doing (even if they are limping along as they’ve done for years). To be sure, change is often stressful. So the antidote to change – indifference – can certainly be as appealing as a response.
But recognizing the enemy is the first step to overcoming it. Indeed, indifference takes many forms. For example, your customer or prospect might be indifferent about, and therefore hesitant to act because of:
- Your company
- A perceived operational risk
- Failure to appreciate the value or ROI of your solution
- Challenges in changing suppliers
- Implementation headaches when introducing a new system or solution
- Corporate culture changes when integrating your solution into their current environment
You can, however, overcome indifference. It begins to disappear when you identify the reason(s) of the purposeful inaction, get your prospect or customer engaged, and communicate the true value of your solution.
To identify the reason or reasons for the indifference, you’ll need to establish or firm up trust and comfort with you and your company. Put your prospect at ease and leave any high-pressure tactics on the doorstep. Ask questions and actively listen. Don’t be pushy or get defensive; open yourself up to the truth, even if it clearly and realistically reveals that your prospects for making the sale are greatly reduced. As you establish a comfortable dialog and identify the root of the indifference, you can more effectively deal with it. If a prospect doesn’t realize a need exists, help him or her see that it does.
To help create better engagement, ask the customer or prospect to articulate the benefits of your products or services. If they can take to heart the value of your solution – and state this value in their own words – they’ll be able to act as your advocate when facing internal doubts or external pitches from industry competitors. Why is getting the prospect to voice your benefits important? Studies have shown that we retain only 20% of what we hear, but 70% of what we say. In other words, when we say it we retain it! Thus, when the prospect has vocalized the value of your solution, they are more likely to remember it and effectively communicate it when pitching to the CEO.
To underscore the value of your solution, identify your company’s strengths in the context of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses: First, determine their positioning in the marketplace compared to yours. Next, determine what they offer that keeps the customer in their camp rather than moving to your better solution. With these answers in hand, you can emphasize the value of your product or service in a way that shows the prospect how your solution might 1) increase revenues or 2) decrease costs or 3) increase market share or 4) perhaps even improve employee productivity. Even with these points clearly made, however, you will probably still have to show – and get the prospect to understand – ways to override the time, cost and pain of making the change.
Remember that while you inherently understand and believe in the value of your solution, it will be more difficult for the customer to reach this same level of comfort and confidence. Ultimately, if they don’t see the value, then there is no value. And until value is understood and championed internally, your biggest competitor – indifference – will come out on top again. At Sales Xceleration we help businesses identify and overcome obstacles just like this. Contact one of our Advisors today – we can help!
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