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Distance Yourself from Your Competition

The time and effort invested in developing a solid customer relationship will always pay dividends in the long run. The steps you take to differentiate yourself from your competition are your only real hedge against the continuous onslaught of your competition’s marketing and selling efforts.

Competitors. No matter what industry or what products and services you may be selling, you undoubtedly have competition. At times, this fact may cause you considerable distress, while, in reality, our competitors keep us on our toes, always forcing us to further refine our message and methods in the hopes of ultimately winning the sale. So… thank you Mr. Competitor. We appreciate your efforts!Our view of the competition, while varying at times, is our key to responsive selling and keeping our efforts focused where they should be… on the customer. Our competitors really do keep us sharp. We must know their strengths and weaknesses as well or better than we know our own. We must truly understand their products and services from our customers’ viewpoint. If indeed our quest is to fully grasp the true nature of the needs and wants of our customers, then we must likewise have a full grasp of the myriad of choices that confront them as well as the manner in which our products and services can meet their expectations, offering more value than our competitors do.

That’s fine. That is Selling 101 with an advanced flair. We must grow accustomed to do far more than that if we truly wish to be known as the superior alternative in the eyes of the customer. If today’s savvy customer already expects a quality product, a fair price, on-time delivery, ease of order entry and a smooth flow of the entire transaction, then what is there left to do? Plenty!It’s seldom only the big things that your customers notice, but rather the summation of the many “little” things along the sales path that make a tremendous difference in their perception of you and your company. It begins with common courtesy, and that starts with the company receptionist.

1. Treat the company receptionist and other employees at every level with respect.

Many salespeople see her of little consequence or may even treat her rudely. First, she is deserving of respect just because she is a human being. She is also doing her job to the best of her ability. Her supervisor frequently calls on her to fill-in or perform many other office functions, often without much expressed gratitude. That receptionist certainly talks to other employees and often is part of the administrative side of purchasing, especially in smaller firms. If you are perceived as rude in any way, you have just burned your bridge with both the gatekeeper and the buyer.

2. Always speak in a professional manner. There is no room for off-color remarks or dark, “street-corner” humor.

Professional salespeople never include harsh humor or foul language in their vocabulary. This alone is often enough to differentiate you from some of your competitors. If you would not say it in church or to your grandmother, don’t say it to your customer. Never degrade any person, race or creed.

3. Look the part of a sales professional.

Dress appropriately. While it is not always necessary to wear a suit or even a dress shirt and tie, there is never an excuse for wearing old, dirty, wrinkled or inappropriate clothing while visiting a customer’s facility. So often, an acceptable mode of dress is a freshly pressed company-logo golf shirt and pressed khaki slacks with leather belt, leather shoes and socks. I have seen everything from tee shirts, blue jeans, no socks and every combination of dress imaginable while in the lobbies of companies over the years. A first impression can never be offered again, so make the first one count.

4. Present a firm handshake, both to men and women, looking at them directly.

This suggestion sounds so basic, but I have witnessed its violation countless times. That handshake and eye contact conveys both your confidence in yourself and your respect for your prospect. You cannot afford to be lacking in either category.

5. Be prepared. Know something about the company before you arrive there.

The internet provides unlimited access to data like never before in history. Be prepared before your call. Learn about the company. Be familiar with their structure, politics, community standing, legal problems, financial condition, their products, their customers, etc… Your communications with company individuals will be far more effective if you arrive well-schooled.

6. Ask effective questions. Let them do the talking. Learn all you can.

Your initial research as described above will enable you to probe, asking effective and relevant questions to uncover the customers’ real issues, needs and wants. Listen and make notes. You will be seen as prepared and knowledgeable hence inspiring respect from your customer.

7. Develop a sales plan and a strategy for developing your relationship with this account.

Once you have learned the customers’ needs and understand how they function as a company, you are now ready to formulate your plan of action. Your plan will be far more effective than that of any competitor who decided to show up one day and start telling this prospect about their great products. Your strategy will make sense to your customer; After all, you are now working within their structure and comfort zone.

8. Give away some valuable information for free.

Offer a tip, help them locate a supplier for an unrelated problem or solve a minor problem for them without charge. Do it cheerfully. Your payment will come later. Be patient.

9. Invite them to tour your company and meet your fellow associates.

Whether or not they choose to visit your facility is not the issue. The simple fact that you invited them conveys confidence and pride in your company and your ability to serve them. Your prospects are most likely proud of the firm they represent and will likewise appreciate you for offering the opportunity for a more intimate relationship.

10. Propose synergy, a mutually beneficial relationship between your two firms.

Try to find a way to partner with your customer through an industry affiliation, Chamber of Commerce reference or other means. If this is not possible, you may have the opportunity to introduce your customer to others in the community with whom they may enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship.

11. Don’t make promises casually. Always deliver more than promised.

Always do what you say you will, in a prompt, forthright manner. Never allow yourself to be in the position of having your customer remind you of something which you promised to do or take care of. Always do more than asked. Do it with a smile.

12. Follow up quickly and regularly.

Call or email your customer regularly. Stay in touch. Always follow up promptly. Send a confirming email. Mail catalogs quickly. Return phone calls as soon as possible. Drop a note in the mail. Send your customer news headlines relevant to their interests or industry. The point is to stay in touch. Keep yourself positioned in front of them in a positive light.

13. Refer your customer to other companies. Help bring them new business.

Every firm wants and needs new business opportunities. If you can bring your customer a new prospect or introduce them to another firm where they can establish a profitable relationship, you will benefit as well. They will know that you really care and are genuinely interested in them.

14. Remember your manners.

Look directly at people when you speak with them. Give them your total attention. Say “please” and “thank you” at the appropriate times. Listen carefully while they are speaking.

15. Turn off your cell phone while on a sales call or in a meeting.

Nothing is more rude or inconsiderate than having your time with your customer interrupted by a ringing cell phone, or worse, having you either take the call or simply look to see who is calling. Nothing speaks “you are not as important as this next phone call” louder than this. Simply place your phone on “vibrate” before your sales call. Any callers will be directed to your voice mail where you can respond after your current sales call is completed. Show consideration for your prospect or customer and give her your undivided attention.

There certainly are more ideas that you could implement, but these should be more than enough to get you started on a more productive path. Prospects require nurturing to become customersArticle Search, who in turn require even more nurturing to blossom into long-term customers who will not be quickly turned away from you by the first low price or fleeting promise from some competitor.

The time and effort invested in developing a solid customer relationship will always pay dividends in the long run. The steps you take to differentiate yourself from your competition are your only real hedge against the continuous onslaught of your competition’s marketing and selling efforts.

Source: Free Articles from ArticlesFactory.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Daniel Sitter, author of both the popular, award-winning e-book, Learning For Profit, and the highly anticipated book, Superior Selling Skills, has extensive experience in sales, training, marketing and personal development over a successful 25 year career. http://www.learningforprofit.com



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