Sales Management Digest

How to Crush the Competition Every Time
Heather Baldwin
Your prospect is looking at two proposals – one from you and one from your biggest competitor. With minor differences, the proposals look about the same. What's going to get the prospect to pick you over your competition? In other words, what's your tiebreaker?

Right now, you're probably racking your brain for your "wow" factor – and that's where many sales organizations go wrong, writes Joe Calloway in the second edition of his best-selling book, Becoming a Category of One. In the quest for some unique, jaw-dropping factor that will lift them above the competition and break the tie, many sellers wind up overlooking the basics – and the basics are the best, most effective tiebreakers.

"Do what you do, extremely well, every single time, with every customer," writes Calloway. "Relentless, attention-getting, differentiating consistency of performance. This can be your ultimate tiebreaker."

If you're thinking that great, consistent performance does no more than get you a ticket to the game and you need something more to break the tie, think again, says Calloway. "Companies that do what they do extremely well every time, with every customer, are exceptionally rare."

Most organizations deliver a solid performance some of the time or, if they're really good, most of the time. But every single time, in every single customer interaction? That's rare.

"The great challenge for any company of much size is to deliver quality and service consistently," says Calloway. "And therein lies your potential differentiator – consistency."

Not convinced? Spend the next week taking note of every business that favorably impresses you and every company where you are a loyal customer. What impresses you? Why do you return again and again to certain businesses? Chances are the resulting list will include such basics as "easy to do business with," "employees always help me find just the right item," "can get in and out quickly," "easy to return items," "always on time," and more. Which of the factors on the list could you own in your organization?

Calloway tells the story of a plumbing company that decided to own being on time. The company staked its brand on this one customer expectation. Its advertising "hammers you over the head with this one focused, precise differentiator," says Calloway. Sure, it's a basic customer service, but in an age when people are more pressed for time than ever and waiting hours for a repairman has become a national joke, punctuality is a huge differentiator – and the company's revenues show it.

Here's another example: Feeling the effects of the recession earlier this year, one of Calloway's clients, a multinational company that sells industrial and commercial safety equipment and alarm systems, asked itself, "What if we owned delivery? What if we were absolutely the most reliable vendor in our industry when it comes to delivery? What impact would that have, not only on our existing customers, but on the customers of our competition?" Again, on the surface, delivery is one basic element of business. But by excelling in it, the company built market share.

"Many companies get so distracted by their search for the wow factor that they take their eye off the ball," concludes Calloway. That "ball" is "the foundational elements of your business – those basic customer expectations."

How are you doing with the basics in your business? Do your job exceptionally well, every time, with every customer, and your business will grow. Plant your flag in one of those basics and excel in it, and you'll bump your sales even higher.

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