How to Build a Competitive Fortress for Your B2B Company
Lisa Magnuson, Founder and CEO of Top Line Sales, asked for my input on a book she is writing on how to win large enterprise sales deals. Since Lisa is perhaps the premier expert in this area, I was happy to participate by offering 13 strategies that can help block competitors and build a competitive fortress around B2B companies. While these strategies can be applied at the macro or company level, I’ve tailored them to also apply to the account team level. Utilize as many of the following strategies as you can to keep competitors away and customers close.
- Go ‘outside’ to complete your competitor SWOT. Conducting competitor SWOT analysis is a very effective way to uncover your own vulnerabilities. To really get to the truth ask two fundamental questions:
- How can they beat us?
- How can we beat them?
Once you learn the truth, address weaknesses by shoring up, filling gaps and reinforcing your strengths.
- If the account team can’t figure out a way to block your competitors, pivot to a place where you have more control over the outcome. That way you can play the game on your battleground, not theirs.
- Be on the right side of the disruption game. Figure out which competitors can disrupt your plans and get there first. It is always better, and less painful, for you to disrupt yourself instead of having competitors or the marketplace do this to you. Disruption can apply to products and services, pricing, delivery, or your marketing and sales processes.
- Decide to come in late. Sometimes the best strategy is to sit on the sidelines and wait until the conditions are favorable and then spring into action. For example, a prospect may be doing a lot of shopping, comparing and analyzing. Let them get downstream in their buying process and then enter when there is clarity and commitment.
- Build relationships before there’s a deal on the table. Get to know potential prospects before they are shopping. Build trust. Follow key contacts on social media and comment on their postings. People like people who think they are smart. Be genuine but use time to your advantage in building key relationships. Encourage your account team to engage executive sponsors thoughtfully and methodically.
- Own or control an important part of the supply chain. This could also apply to your solution. For instance, if you own the analysis phase through the implementation project management phase, you can effectively lock out some competitors.
- If you’re the market leader, use it. If your company has the largest awareness in the market, then use the safe decision or resource-rich angle.
- If you’re small, use it. If you’re not the biggest or well known in the market, then tout flexibility, speed and responsiveness.
- Channel partners offer a wealth of information. Channel partners may have worked with one or more of your competitors at some point. Don’t keep them at arm’s length. Ask them all about your competitors at a deep level.
- Bundle unlikely products or services. Figure out where your competitors have gaps in their product or services lines and create packages of services or products to block them. For example, you can package training, project management or access to experts as part of your solution.
- Consider acquiring. At the company level, buy another company to complement your offerings. At the account team level, think like an entrepreneur by utilizing partners to fulfill missing pieces or gaps.
- Refuse to play the pricing game. Studies show that holding prices firm increases overall revenues. It also can add value to your solution and certainly bolsters your credibility. However, pricing is always within the context of your offering and where it falls on the high-value to commodity spectrum. Play the long game with pricing and hold steady when you can.
- Simplicity is a very big differentiator. If your competitor’s process makes it difficult for customers to buy from them, use their complexity to your advantage. Talk about (and demonstrate) the benefits of your simple and efficient buying processes.
Competitors are serious businesses and thoroughly understanding and blocking them is necessary to win more often. Here is another article that will show you how to take on, and beat, large competitors.