Why it is important to know your competitor

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” (The Art of War)

It is not enough to know your product. To sell successfully you must also know your competitor’s product. The failure to do so will cost you sales. You will be stumped when thrown a curve ball. “But, (your competitor) offers much more for this price.”; or, “Your competitor (unnamed) gave a return three per cent higher than you last year, so why should I invest with you?” The second one is even more potent-you don’t even know if said competitor exists. Even if you are to see these as objections, to competently deflect them requires that you first understand them.  Here are two aspects on this issue.

One, assume that the buyer knows much more than you about what the market offers because likely he does. Like a beautiful girl who has been ‘hit on’ by many men, the buyer has equally been ‘hit on’ by many sellers. In fact, research has shown that the largest single source of information about the products in the market come from sellers. And buyers wield this benefit with abandon. That’s why you have likely been enticed with a sale and yet the ulterior motive was to satisfy the ‘three quotes are required need before we purchase’ quota.  Why bother going to the mountain when the mountain can come to Mohamed?

Two. So how do you go about knowing what’s out there? Flip the narrative. Ask the customer. Knowledgeable ones are a repository of information. The beauty with asking them is that they will explain the product from their perspective, which is a gem of information. This perspective is the one that successful sellers use; they explain the product through the customer’s eyes. The other way to heighten your knowledge is to mystery shop. Pretend to be a buyer and show up at the competitor’s front desk and ask about their competing product and how it works. Ask all the questions a buyer would. Then go to another branch and repeat this for the same or different product.  Why the same? Because it never ceases to amaze me how two sales people from the same organization can tell you conflicting information about the same product. Browsing the internet or reading the brochure are passive ways of learning and whilst okay to do should still be supplemented with live discussions. Among other reasons for this is that the information therein could be stale; they may not have been updated as frequently as new changes happen. The internet, however, is a rich source of what customers are saying about the product and how it works-or doesn’t.

As the book  The Art of War says, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

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