By Jeff Beals
In a competitive selling situation, communication is
often not completely straightforward. Sellers and buyers
sometimes don’t see eye to eye, and while sellers are ideally
supposed to see themselves as “buyer coaches” and “purchase
facilitators,” sometimes, the two sides find themselves at
odds or in conflict.
In certain industries, sellers and buyers automatically
operate in an adversarial setting. Both sides hold their cards
close to the vest, not wanting to give up negotiation options.
Some buyers keep one potential vendor on the line as a backup
plan, a decoy or as a means of gathering information they
can use in negotiations with the real, preferred provider. To
make the playing field even more treacherous, one provider
may deliberately spread misinformation about another in
order to sabotage the competition and confuse the buyers.
Competitive marketplaces can become perilous because
there are so many moving parts, competing interests and
hidden agendas to monitor and manage. The situation is
somewhat analogous to the espionage, reconnaissance and
counter-intelligence in which nations engage.
If you are going to play such a game, borrow a page from
the Central Intelligence Agency. You better have your own
intelligence and counter-intelligence plans as well as the
intestinal fortitude to carry out those plans. Idealistic people,
especially those on the outside of a given industry, find such
behavior to be unseemly. Practical people realize that you
sometimes have to play rough to win highly contested battles.
Sometimes, you can gather intel by guessing what you
think might be happening with your prospect or competitor,
calling them up and asking a loaded question. Let’s say
you manage a shopping mall. You and the manager of a
competing mall tend to go head-to-head trying to attract the
same retail tenants. Although you have been trying to attract
Brooks Brothers to your mall, you have a hunch you’re losing
out to the competitor. You could always call the manager of
the other mall and say, “Congrats, I hear you landed Brooks
Brothers.” After saying that, wait and listen. What the other
manager says and how he or she reacts is a sneaky way to do
Although it is often in their best interest to remain silent,
most people can’t help themselves. It’s human nature to share
and communicate. It’s also human nature to brag, show
off and be the person in the know. If you manipulate that natural tendency to your advantage, you can be one of the
best-informed marketers or salespersons in your peer group.
Some people might not consider it ethical, but gathering
intelligence is a necessary fact of life in highly competitive
industries that operate in loud and crowded marketplaces.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 637-9300.
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