Sales Mistakes that Give Your Competitors an Edge

Senior Living Mystery Shopping

Three Ways You Could Be Giving Your Competitors an Edge

And How to Keep the Advantage for Yourself

Our competitor mystery shoppers talk to dozens of sales representatives every week. After reviewing information from hundreds of companies, one thing is clear:  The organizations with most of the market share are good at capturing the attention of callers from their first interaction. The rest of the companies stumble into these pitfalls even though they think they are doing everything right.

Pitfall #1: No Personal Connection

If you are in a high-volume industry, where 90% of your clients need the same, basic services, it is easy to forget that while you are fielding multiple calls each day, the prospect is hearing the information for the very first time. This problem is compounded when you are working in a competitive industry. The prospect may have called half a dozen of your competitors and after only a few calls, it is easy to identify the order takers. Order takers process each call essentially the same way. They ask a few questions and provide some basic information. They may capture come contact information, but at the end of the call, they are moving on to their next call or task. The prospect has slipped from their memory like so many prospects before them.

Sales Tip #1: Treat Each Prospect Like Your Only Prospect

What would you do if you only had one prospect? You would likely roll out the red carpet for this Very Important Prospect (VIP) and do everything in your power to seal the deal. The key to connecting is to treat every prospect like a VIP. Each of your prospects is special with a unique set of circumstances. Your prospects want you to acknowledge this uniqueness even when you talk to other people in similar circumstances every day.

Take a few moments to acknowledge how difficult the situation is for the prospect. Try to connect on a different level. Have you experienced a similar situation or felt the same way? Do you live in the prospect’s neighborhood? Do you have something else in common?

For example, you hear a dog barking in the background and have a dog yourself. Ask the prospect what kind of dog she has. Commiserate with her because your dog likes attention when you are on the phone also. If the prospect is calling from another state and you have spent time in the area, then let her know. Share your experience. The point is to start to build on a relationship, not simply process an order. When prospects feel that you care about them personally, they will feel a connection and, all other things being equal, will gravitate to your organization.

Pitfall #2 Information Dumps

An infCompetitor Mystery Shopsormation dump occurs when the prospect calls to get some information, and hears everything but the information that they want. An information dump begins when a well-meaning representative starts to share knowledge about the product of service that is being offered before conducting the right kind of discovery from the prospect. The operative phrase here is the right kind of discovery, because many of these sales representatives did capture some initial information – the name of the caller, information about his or her situation. However the sales rep does not dig deeply enough to understand where the prospect is experiencing real pain. Instead, he or she share lists of features – the types of services the company offers, the training they give their team, areas they think will be benefits. Sometimes our shoppers will listen to a five-minute download of information before they are able to ask a single question.

Sales Tip #2: What Your Prospects Want to Hear

First of all, the information that you are so passionate about is usually not what the prospect cares about. You need to share information that the prospect needs to know about, not the information that you want to discuss.

Prospects generally call you because they have a specific problem that they wish to solve. They want you to take a few minutes to understand and relate to that problem, then correlate the information that you provide with their personal situation. It is not the prospect’s job to sift through masses of irrelevant information in the hopes that he or she will find that golden nugget that will provide a solution. It is, however the job of the sales person to understand where the prospect feels the most pain and pinpoint solutions that the company provides.

Pitfall #3: Not Standing Out

In a growth industry, where there are numerous competitors, many of these companies start to sound alike – from products provided, to service delivery – even pricing. When our shoppers ask, “What makes you different?” or “Why should I choose your company?” the sales representative often struggles to find an answer. Sometimes the sales rep will actually tell our shoppers that all the companies in the industry are pretty much the same. More often, he or she will cite another list – one that is identical to the list of differentiators that other competitors in the area gave us.

Sales Tip #3: Provide a Benefit That Your Prospects Can’t Find Elsewhere

When you operate in a crowded industry, having a clear differentiator that provides a real benefit to your prospects is critical. Begin by getting to know your market. What do the competitors provide? Next, talk to your clients. Is there a reason they chose you instead of a competitor? Maybe they recognized a differentiator, even if you did not. Perhaps you deliver your services with a twist – one that is so ingrained in your organization that you do not even perceive it as being different.

However, creating or recognizing your company’s ‘something special’ is not, in and of itself enough. Your sales team must learn to connect the dots for your prospects. In other words, explain why your differentiator is an actual benefit. You can describe how it saves them time or money, offers additional protection or gives another useful advantage. We often see companies that have invested time or money to create a differentiator, only to find that their sales team never actually explains how it helps prospects solve their problem.

Follow this article series to avoid sales pitfalls and learn the best sales practices that will boost your ability to capture the interest of your prospects and ultimately win more business.

 About the Author

Head Shot FramedFiona F. Middleton, MSM is the president and and CEO of Fairfield Business Solutions. With more than 20 years’ experience working with business owners and senior management teams, Fiona is an authority on delivering customized coaching and training programs that help organizations obtain results. She is committed to helping business owners and sales teams achieve breakthroughs in their sales and marketing and build more productive relationships internally and with clients.

Fiona is a frequent guest speaker at conferences, industry organizations and business groups, offering high-content, motivational presentations on sales, marketing, business relationships and growth strategies. An expert in adult learning, she has developed cost-effective on-line training courses which can be adapted to individual organizations.

Fiona has a master’s degree in management, with concentrations in training and leadership and is part of the adjunct faculty at Rosemont College. For more information on Fiona F. Middleton, MSM visit:


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