How Do You Stand Out Amid Strong Competition?


How Do You Stand Out Amid Strong Competition?

Two summer articles in The Boston Globe focused on the ongoing competition between Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts and their mutual desire for aggressive marketing regionally, nationally and internationally. This prompted me to consider if you are in sales and you represent a dominant brand in constant competition with another popular brand, how do you begin to win market share from the other company?

Using our best negotiation practices, here are a few ideas that we have seen work:

Truly understand the core interests of your buyers from a company, division and personal perspective.

The more you dig under any statements to find clear motivators and needs and gather as much information as possible, the sooner you can align your offerings to solve their problems persuasively.  You will come off as listening, understanding, responsive, problem-solving, and creative. You have centered your brand and reputation around content needs as well, and often more importantly, on the relationship needs. And if you can support the buyer’s personal interests as well as the overall company or division needs, you have built trust and enhanced the long-term relationship capacity.

For example, by acknowledging and looking for ways to help buyers appear favorably to their bosses and meet performance goals, you make it easier for them to say “yes” and look forward to working with you again.

Clearly articulate the value you and your solutions bring and how they meet the buyer’s interests

Once you understand your buyer’s interests fully, you can share possible options that satisfy those needs. How you frame the solutions is important because it gives you the chance to show all the value that you and your offering bring. We often recommend providing multiple options to show different ways you could satisfy the buyer’s interest. This approach helps prevent falling into a positional discussion where each side is presenting the proposal, resulting in a haggle or compromise. Providing multiple options also avoids soliciting a “yes” or “no” answer which would reduce the odds of moving forward to 50%. With at least two choices, it encourages further discussion as needed with the buyer, in case you haven’t quite hit the mark with either. It is better to hear what is wrong with Option A or Option B and learn more about their interests than to hear “no” to a single proposal.

Make sure the multiple options you offer are within the upper end of a high but reasonable range. When you propose this range, you anchor the conversation to your preferred agreement options and promote a greater chance of reaching closer to this range. If you begin the conversation at the level of the minimum for what you can do, you increase the odds that the negotiation will center on this lower range and you may not get close to your target.

Along with the specific substantive needs your options bring to the buyer, you can remind them of the additional benefits your relationship adds. Being able to say “when you work with me and my company, you get…” is a powerful way to solidify your substantive offering. People often purchase from others when they perceive a positive relationship and rapport, even if it will cost a little more because they want to work with people they like and that treat them well.

To be most persuasive, share relevant criteria

If you have any research benchmarks, market standards, or precedents that will demonstrate the reason and fairness in your options, it strengthens your confidence to ask for them. Additionally it gives much needed objective data for your buyer to bring back to their decision makers to justify your proposed offer. If the buyer perceives your option is based simply on your will and what you want, they will not be persuaded.  Everyone wants to feel that they are getting a fair deal. Your job is to show how your options provide value, meet the buyer’s interests, and are aligned with standards of fairness to make it easy to say “yes”. And if you do it all in an authentic, relatable way where you are building a long-term relationship, you are all the more likely to win the sale.

Have you tried any of these techniques? Do you have stories or what worked or didn’t for you? Do you have further questions?


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