Every company I know loathes the so-called competitive bakeoff: That's when customers round up all the leading providers in a given product or service category and make them beat each other. There are few real winners in the competitive bakeoff.
The struggle for marketing and sales teams is to find a way to rise above the competitive bakeoff and have greater impact earlier in the customer buying cycle—where they are still defining their objectives, problems, and needs.
Do your marketing and sales communications perpetuate the head-to-head competitive bakeoff? Or does it equip and enable your sales people to participate earlier and more effectively in the customer buying cycle?
There is an easy way to tell. Take a look at the following graphic.
If most of your marketing and communications start with your products and services and talk about them in more detail, then they are primarily useful in the transactional, competitive bakeoff part of the sales cycle (right side)—where a customer has already identified the category of product or service they need and are simply reviewing competitive options.
Meanwhile, the opportunity for solutions and value-driven selling takes place on the left-hand side of this graphic, where customers are first determining whether they have challenges or problems in meeting their key objectives—and then identifying what needs that creates for possible solutions—even before they ever begin to specify a product or service.
Here lies the biggest opportunity for companies to conduct a consultative conversation. But, more than likely, this is the biggest gap in your marketing messaging, sales tools, and training. Few companies have sufficient content and competency training designed to equip and enable the sales channel to be more proficient in the early part of the customer buying cycle.