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Many years ago, I watched a hotly contested 100m final race on T.V. The winner, when interviewed at the end of the race, was asked if he was aware how close the race was. His response; “I wasn’t aware of anything or anyone!” 
He was focused only on what he could control, and ran a flawless race. How aware of competitors should sales people be? 
Many companies spend time and effort worrying about and talking about their competition. Sales people, the world over, are encouraged to develop competitor matrices to support the argument that they are better in certain critical areas than their competitors. Product development is largely focused, not on the customers’ problems and challenges that keep them awake at night, but on the limitations of competitive products. 
In the small gaps between this subjective view of what they do better than their competitors, is their weakened value proposition. If these companies put the same amount of effort into defining how their companies could be different than their competitors instead of how they can be better, the results would soon speak for themselves. 
The truth is our prospects often know more than the sales person about the competition. Either we do not mention the competition and focus on what we are there to do, or we are totally open and honest about them. 
I choose the first option. I believe we should neither think about our competitors nor refer to them when we are selling. 
Generally, discussions about competition lack authenticity, which can affect trust, rapport and credibility. Sales often struggle to give a balanced view of the competition in the hope that they paint them in too positive a light. The ego takes over, and the tendency is to damn with faint praise. 
It is important to keep your ear to the ground, to know what represents leading edge and best practice in your industry. You can then build on this information to create outstanding products. If you are asked the question about competition, you should be able to provide your customers with an informed, balanced and honest view. 
But if you are confident that your company offers great value and can provide the right solutions, introducing the competition is at odds with your intention to uncover your customer’s deepest reasons for buying and to provide a compelling, creative solution that addresses those reasons. 
I accept that once the sale is completed, it is good practice to understand the competitive landscape and how you were perceived vs. your competitors, but not during the sales process. 
Value should be realised in the way you solve their problems and the agility with which you achieve the results that they are looking for. Not in the way you stack up against another company. In this way, price discussions are less likely to be related to the competition and market, but to the value and impact of your product or service on the business you are selling to. 
Transfer the energy you are using up competing to innovating and thinking differently. 
Set yourself apart based on a superior understanding of your prospects need to change. 
Develop unique solution frameworks, and creative ways of improving your customers’ experience. 
Constantly engage with your ideal customers and ask them what is troubling them, what problem they would like to solve, as it relates to what you offer. 
And don’t look back! 
As a Speaker, Sales Trainer and Accredited Master Coach (CSA), Glen Williamson is passionate about helping SME business owners and sales professionals of all levels reach new height of sales performance delivery.  
Taking his 30 years of experience in sales and business development, Glen founded GWC Sales Training in 2011 to deliver consultancy and training for clients across a wide range of sectors including logistics, financial services and oil and gas. 
Meeting the needs of our increasingly complex and competitive business environment, Glen’s “Master The Sales Conversation Masterclass”, and Complete Target Account Selling Program create interactive opportunities to embed new ideas and techniques for consistent, predictable sales success. 
Glen believes that sales is a collaborative process, part of who we are and how we survive, and at its core, should be a desire to ‘help’, not ‘sell’. 
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