You and your team need to live in the competition’s head. That way, you’ll have a good idea about how they will try to sell against you. You’ll find the chinks in your armor more easily and you will ultimately be more successful in the market place.
To see if you really understand your competition, try this:
- Write a sales pitch to one of your customers as if you were them.
- Create a PowerPoint template and build the selling story.
Be aggressive and be the competition. It may surprise you. And it may scare you. But you’ll be better prepared for the future.
Know the competition better than they know theyselves: Take your top competitor and research everything you can
The goal of this process is to build a fact-based selling story, so start off by building your fact base. Go to your key competitor’s:
- Corporate website
- Visit key retailers who stock their product
- Go to etailers and retail .com sites that offer the product
- Head over to all the social media sites
- Gather literature, ads and catalogs
While in-store, take photos. Note pricing. Document plan-o-grams. Evaluate packaging. Is there any attempt at differentiation between retailers? Scan QR codes and UPC codes.
While on .com sites, are you seeing A+ pages? What graphics are being used? What features and benefits are being highlighted? Are videos posted? Read reviews – good and bad.
Do you see evidence of a social media strategy? Are they utilizing Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest effectively? Note Likes and Followers, grab screenshots and document any promotions or special events like a Twitter party.
In general, what is being done to educate the consumer – online or off-line? And don’t forget to simply Google your competitor. You’ll be surprised at what you might find posted that will help build your knowledge base.
Put together a compelling pitch based entirely on facts
Create a PowerPoint template that looks as if it came from the competition. Photoshop a template based on graphics you find online. This is particularly effective at snaring senior management attention – it seems all the more real when it looks like the competition.
The presentation should have five major sections:
- Corporate overview
- Why us
- Product differentiation
- Retail landscape
Put all the facts together in a compelling way. If your competitor is a multi-billion dollar corporation, brag about the scale. If a small, privately held firm, talk up focus or nimbleness.
Approach the competition’s product line with the mindset of how might they position their brand and offering at this retailer? What would be their sales pitch to upset your placement? Dig deep into understanding their product offering. What’s innovative in their mind?
What can you – as the competitor – bring to the party? Differentiation? Better value? Even if you only use this thought process as a clean sheet of paper exercise, it will force you to think differently.
Remember you are trying to win the business as the competitor at one of your key accounts! All the shackles of being the incumbent are removed. One thing to keep in mind, you can’t know what cost or margin the competitor is likely to bring, so don’t tear out your hair trying to figure that out.
Wrap everything up with lessons learned
You should put as much time and thought into this project as you would to build your own customer presentation. Work hard to truly understand the key points your competitor will use against you to win the business. And once you have the best possible pitch built, build out a page or two of lessons learned.
For example, was the story stronger than you expected? Were you surprised by the strength of the product pitch? Have you been discounting their innovation, materials or performance for so long you lost sight of what they were really communicating to customers? Did you discover any new consumer marketing or brand strategies?
Done well, when you are finished with this exercise you will better understand how you can be challenged by the competition at a key retailer. More importantly, you’ll have the insights you need to build a plan to reduce your risk of losing the business.