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Strategic Selling

Outmaneuver the Competition

By Michael Leimbach, PhD, David Yesford

A sales rep had a long-term relationship with the head of an in-house printing group, and he expected to get the business when the company decided to outsource its printing services. The rep was shocked to find out the deal went to a competitor. His contact told him the other company offered a “better value.” The sales rep thought he knew the customer, but now he wondered, “What did the other guy know that I didn’t?”

The sales rep in this example was sure he knew what the printing manager was looking for—she frequently told him how much she prized his company’s quality, reliability, and service. What he didn’t know, but a competitor did, was that the buying committee included several finance people and a key stakeholder who were very concerned about capital expenditures, rather than all the extra service the rep emphasized in his proposal. In short, he was outmaneuvered because he didn’t understand what the customer truly valued.

Salespeople often believe they know what the customer wants and needs, based on their own company’s value proposition and one or two discovery conversations with trusted contacts. Salespeople may be responding to an RFP that spells out the official requirements—information that is shared with all bidders. In fact, this information only tells part of the story and will not really help the salesperson clearly understand how the customer sees value. In the case above, the competitor learned about the capital expenditure issue either from a broader mix of stakeholders or from one contact who was well-informed about the decision makers’ real view of value. As a result, the competitor was able to create a solution that responded to the customer’s priorities better than the salesperson’s solution did. The salesperson was not only outmaneuvered, he was blindsided by having gathered too little or even misleading information.

 

Salespeople often believe they know what the customer wants and needs, based on their own company's value proposition and one or two discovery conversations with trusted contacts.

Michael Leimbach, PhD

Michael Leimbach, PhD, is a globally recognized expert in instructional design and leadership development. As Vice President of Global Research and Development for Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc., he has worked with numerous Global 1000 organizations in Australia, England, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and throughout the United States. Over more than 30 years, Dr. Leimbach had developed Wilson Learning’s diagnostic, learning, and performance improvement capabilities, published over 100 professional articles, coauthored four books, been Editor-in-Chief for the highly acclaimed ADHR research journal, and is a frequent speaker at national and global conferences. He also serves on the ISO Technical Committee (TC232) on Quality Standards for Learning Service Providers and on the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development Dean’s Advisory Board.

David Yesford

David Yesford, Senior Vice President of Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. and Managing Director of Wilson Learning APAC, has more than 30 years of experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions around the world. He brings valuable experience, strategic direction, and global perspective to his work with clients. Mr. Yesford is an active member of the Wilson Learning Global Executive Board, with current responsibility at a global level. Over the years, he has held strategic roles in our core content areas of sales and leadership, as well as e-learning and strategic consulting. He has also held managing director positions in both China and India.

Mr. Yesford is the contributing author of several books, including Win-Win Selling, Versatile Selling, The Social Styles Handbook, and The Sales Training Book 2. He has also been published in numerous business publications throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific. Mr. Yesford frequently speaks at international conferences and summits, focusing on issues such as sales and sales strategy, leadership, employee and customer engagement, brand, and strategy implementation.