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How To Deal With Competition in Sales (And Win)

Chris Orlob
August 23, 2023

You can believe in your product all you want. Keep telling yourself it’s got the best features, greatest undifferentiated value and blah blah blah. 

Even if it’s true — that doesn’t matter. You need to convince potential customers of this, and that’s tough, especially when your direct competitors are saying all the exact same things. 

Competition in sales is inevitable, because we don’t exist in a bubble. B2B customers have more options today than ever before, and they’re taking more time to conduct their research by reading online reviews and talking to multiple different sales people.

So, the question becomes how to deal with competition in sales and actually win. 

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What is Sales Competition?

Sales competition is any competition— direct and indirect— that could cost you a sale. 

Almost every business out there will have competing businesses trying to snag the same customers they are (or the customers they’ve already acquired). 

That’s why it’s crucial to consider the competition when you’re creating your sales strategy, (really GTM strategy) because you don’t just need to sell your tool, you need to successfully show why your tool is superior to anyone else’s for that particular customer. 

Smaller, emerging brands need to successfully demonstrate why customers should choose their tool over a well-known established brand; it should become part of your central selling strategy. 

Even larger brands need to consider the value propositions they offer compared to the competition so they can highlight them effectively, whether the customer asks directly about the competition or not. 

It’s not uncommon for B2B customers to reach out to multiple sales teams for information about similar SaaS products. They may also sign up for multiple free trials. There may be multiple decision-makers involved (potentially including c-level executives), each one wanting to get the full picture to assess a business’s products, features, uptime, customer support, and pricing. 

As a result, understanding your competitive landscape is essential. You need to know how you fit into the market as it exists right now, and account for that in your sales cycle. 

How Salespeople Identify Competition

A crucial sales skill is learning how to identify competitors. 

You’ll want to regularly assess the competitive landscape, especially since new businesses, products, and services are always emerging at a rapid-pace in the B2B and SaaS industries. 

Here’s how to identify competitors:

  • Use social media (especially LinkedIn) for competitive research. What tools are getting mentioned most by people in your network? What are people saying about them? You can search for competitor brands and see the company’s posts along with public posts from third-parties. See who is collecting followers, and how people are engaging with your competition. 
  • Use LinkedIn to watch for growing sales teams. Want to know which competitors in your industry may be stepping up their game? Look for growth in marketing and sales department employees.
  • See who is running PPC ads. A quick Google search can give you insight into which competitors are running PPC search ads, and what value propositions they’re targeting. You can also use tools like SpyFu to see who is bidding on what keywords, and how aggressively they’re marketing. 
  • Read online reviews. There are plenty of B2B and SaaS review sites that review products professionally, and list customer reviews. Check in regularly to monitor for new or particularly fierce competition that is likely to appeal to your customer base. 
  • Listen to your customers. Your customers might actually say “What can you offer that Sprout Social can’t?” or “Some tools have automation features, do you?” Even if they don’t mention other tools explicitly, they may mention specific features that are easy to recognize— that’s your clue that you need to beat that particular competitor in this exchange. 

Understanding the Competitive Sales Cycle

The competitive sales cycle all comes down to who can best convince the lead that their product can solve their needs.

Identifying your potential customers’ needs is the first step. Without understanding your lead buyer personas and target audience segments, you’ll struggle to convert any customers. Only when you understand their specific pain points can you leverage that information to get them to purchase from you instead of the competition. 

You may realize, for example, that certain audience segments are concerned about scalability instead of pricing, or vice versa. Others prioritize 24/7 customer support with extremely low downtime rates. Some look for an easy interface, help with product setup, customization with integrations, or the latest new features that speak to a specific need that they have. 

Understanding what you can do to solve these pain points should have an enormous impact on sales conversations and closing deals. When you’re able to position yourself in each client call as the best solution for the client’s immediate and most significant needs (and how you can surpass most of your competition in a holistic way), you’re in a winning position. 

Assessing the Competitive Landscape

Assessing the competitive landscape is the only way to identify key players and learn about the competitor’s products. 

We’ve already discussed ways to identify different direct and indirect competition above. As you’re using those strategies, make sure you’re looking at all of the competitors that could capture some of your target audience and understand exactly how you’re different. 

You’ll want to focus most closely on your direct competitors who are targeting the same customers with the same or similar value propositions. These are the brands that will be the toughest sales competition, and it’s important to understand what you can offer that they can’t, even if it’s something like better customer support or one single specific feature.

Understanding your market share and adapting your sales approach to the competitive landscape is essential. For this reason, ongoing monitoring of the overall market is critical for your success as a salesperson. 

👉Recommended: 8 Best SaaS Sales Training Programs & Courses Right Now

Developing a Competitive Advantage

We’ve talked a lot about value propositions and setting yourself apart. 

You must master the skill of differentiation in sales if you want to win in a sales competition. This is the practice of successfully highlighting what makes your product unique, and showcasing how that unique value can directly benefit customers. In other words, it’s about why they need your product over the competition.

You can use past success and hard work to build a competitive advantage by identifying how you fit into the competitive landscape and coming to the table ready with sales strategies that consider competitive selling. Gaining as much information about your lead, about the competition, and about what you can do differently (read: better) is essential, and you should utilize your sales team to build a sustainable advantage with these practices. 

The Power of Differentiation

Some brands come onto the scene determined to offer a unique feature that will blow the competition out of the water. This is way one to differentiate yourself.

Others try to do things better. More uptime, more consistency, fewer bugs, more integrations, better product interfaces. This is another differentiator.

Some brands may try to offer low pricing, period; others prioritize offering as many features as possible for the best price, while other brands focus on creating scalable tools.

This is exactly why no brand is right for every customer out there— customers are all unique, with their own pain points and concerns, as we mentioned above.

Know what makes you different so you can explain how your product offers a superior customer experience, even if some of your competition beats you in other areas. 

Focus on this during your sales demos and calls, leveraging unique aspects of your product or service. Who cares about a fancy collaboration tool that small businesses will never use if that fancy tool comes with a high price tag and limited customer support? 

These strategies can help sales reps communicate differentiation effectively: 

  • Researching leads in advance and asking leading questions to assess what’s most important to them, and then explaining how features you offer can solve those pain points
  • Researching the competition to know where you’re at the top of your game, and knowing how to leverage that value to customers by explaining how it will benefit them and why it’s a “need” and not a “want”
  • Knowing how to present scenarios where users would miss the specific feature or aspect of your business that makes you unique, like mentioning that security features in case of an attempted hacking is essential for brand protection
  • Practice your selling strategies with other sales team members so you can all learn how to effective leverage and explain your differentiators 

Leveraging Past Success and Hard Work

When you’re selling to customers, you can use past success stories to boost trust and your brand’s credibility. Customer testimonials alone are a powerful differentiator to leverage during the sales process. 

The impact of hard work on your bottom line is significant. Not only are you able to create positive customer experiences, but you can feature those happy customers and long-standing success in order to attract and convert new customers.

You can also learn from your past success, too. Develop sales templates based on past won deals to consider which selling strategies, value propositions, and offers are most effective for each buyer persona. 

How Sales Teams Build a Competitive Advantage

Sales teams can build a competitive advantage together, so creating a collaborative environment instead of a competitive one within your own team is essential.

Encourage team members to share their knowledge and skills. They can share battle cards, insights into customer personas, and sales strategies that have worked for them. Team members can also talk over potential leads and sales calls before they happen, ensuring that everyone is prepared for the best chance of closing a deal. 

👉Recommended: 5 Best SDR Training Programs & Online Courses

Refining Your Sales Process to Beat the Competition

No business is static, and no competitor is static. New competitors will arise, and the competitive landscape shifts regularly. Because of this, you need to constantly work on innovating your sales process to adapt, ensuring that you’re honing in on the right metrics in the process.

Metrics: The Backbone of Competitive Selling

Data is always going to paint a detailed picture of what’s happening. It’s important, therefore, to identify key metrics and adjust your sales strategy accordingly. 

You can use data to learn the following:

  • Which sales strategies and offers are most effective at driving conversions
  • Which audience personas are converting, and at what level
  • Which sales team members have the best performance 
  • Which follow-up process and timeframe is most effective 
  • Which selling processes work best 

Sales leaders should use metrics to do the following:

  • Set and manage sales quotas 
  • Advice the team on best selling strategies 
  • Offer training as needed around new strategies or for individual team members
  • Adjust the selling or follow-up processes to convert more users 

Innovating & Refining Your Sales Process

Sales reps play an important role in refining the sales process, especially since they’re getting direct feedback from customers that provides real-time insight into what’s happening in the competitive landscape.

You need consistent and constant innovation to stay ahead of the competitors. 

Sales team members should take the time to learn the following from their customers:

  • Which aspects of a product are most important to that particular customer and why
  • What other tools they’re considering, if any
  • Which tools the customer chose instead of yours if you don’t win the deal
  • Why they decided to purchase with you if you close the deal
  • What objections customers have about purchasing with you 
  • What selling points of your product are most appealing to them 

You can use this information to identify new competitors and determine how to leverage your value propositions against them— and the direct contact between the sales team and the customer is the best way to get it.

Ongoing sales training should facilitate fostering innovation, too. Encourage team members to share new ideas, differentiators, or strategies to try. Incorporate new processes into training so everyone is always ready to close the next deal. 

Retention and Growth Strategies

A salesperson’s job isn’t over just because they closed the deal with a customer; customer retention is essential in competitive sales, too.

Let’s take a look at how to expand your customer base while retaining existing customers leveraging different platforms for overall growth. 

How to Shift Focus to Retention

Acquiring new customers and having a full pipeline is always important, but you also need to make sure that your sales team is making an active effort with retention.

Customer retention has an enormous impact on the bottom line. Acquiring new customers is anywhere from 5-25x more expensive than the cost of retaining existing customers. Ensuring that your customers stay happy, and even upselling or cross-selling to those customers, will yield more revenue at less cost. 

Sales professionals should constantly engage in retention strategies like the following:

  • Reaching out to see if the customer needs any assistance
  • Letting the customer know about any special deals
  • Informing customers of new features or aspects of the business that may benefit them

Customers may quietly churn if you fail to reach out, so being proactive can preserve the relationship and the sale. 

Expanding Your Customer Base

Consider how to find new high-value potential customers that will have high retention rates. 

You can use LinkedIn and other social media platforms to identify and reach out to new clients. 

LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator can be particularly useful for prospecting and sales outreach — if you’re a startup with a lighter budget, there are also plenty of alternative solutions on the market. 

In your initial outreach, mention common pain points (and how you can resolve those pain points). Consider the customer’s specific persona and tailor your message according to the information you can find online.

While marketing is great, sales reps should allocate time every week to expanding the customer base. This should be part of the team’s ongoing training so team members know how to identify and reach out to high-value potential customers. 

Utilizing Podcasts, LinkedIn, and Social Selling

LinkedIn and the Sales Navigator is a powerful tool to connect with, nurture, and retain clients. Ongoing engagement is essential, and that’s one of social media’s strongest assets.

You should also consider podcasts for reaching new and existing customers alike. You can appear as a guest on popular SaaS, B2B, or or other industry-relevant podcasts, just make sure you choose one whose subscribers align with your demographic. 

A representative from a project management SaaS tool, for example, might appear on a B2B-focused podcast talking about how project management tools are essential for managing freelance vendors. 

You can also launch your own podcast to establish thought leadership and attract new clients to your brand. 

Getting Ahead of the Competition with Professional Sales Training

Identifying and monitoring your competition is an important part of actually beating the competition, and this should be part of your continual sales training.

Professional sales training is often a game changer for many businesses, as long as you choose a program run by an expert sales coach. Look for programs that address your specific needs and that offer continually-updated training programs, actionable strategies, and ideally direct coaching. We offer this and more here at pclub. 

Check out these courses to get started: 

See our full library of sales training courses here

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