Position Your Competition By Focusing on the Small Details

Sales Professionals often position the competition by highlighting the small differences and making them important to the prospect. This is a highly effective sales tactic for creating a reason to choose, as this article shows with an example of how to do it.

It’s originally published in our Front Office Box blog

Change The Point of Competition to Control The Sale

by stevensreeves

in Sales Coach

Do you position competition for your prospects, as part of your sales strategy? If so how do you that, and does it work for you? Do you focus on major differentiators or those minor points the others won’t think relevant?

In the good old days we were always told not to say anything bad about competitors. Bad naming others in the market swiftly becomes counter productive as they return the favour. That maxim is every bit as relevant today.

But sometimes the other teams’ competitive positioning leaves them open, not to criticism, but to differentiation on the finer points. Finding those small details and making sure the prospect understands their importance can be the silver bullet in a big sale.

This is especially powerful when the competitor positions small differences in the offer as irrelevant. The sales professional who can highlight the relevance of those differences will alter the competitive positioning, and grab the initiative. Military leaders would call this tactic choosing the battle ground – defining the terms on which the competition will be decided. In sales we can call it positioning the competition.


We won’t bad name their product, or service. We’ll compliment their pricing strategy and power in the market place. We’ll wish our marketing could be as good as theirs. We’ll highlight their strengths and agree they match with our own.

After all, that’s what the prospect is thinking anyway.

Then we can point to the competitions lack of footprint in a particular sector, or time to market, or business strategy or terms of business and focus the prospect on those.

We have to be subtle about it, of course, but done properly this tactic can change the point of competition and, with any luck, the other team will never know it’s happened. Until they lose the deal, that is.

Case Study

Inspiration for this post came from a TV advertisement aired last evening. Here’s a quick sketch of competitive positioning changing the battle ground.

Cell phone companies everywhere spend vast amounts of our money sponsoring sports teams, and racing cars, and concert venues. We get no value as they try to make their brands dominate our thinking.

Tesco recently announced it will provide cell phone services. Yesterday’s ad was the beginning of the launch.

The slot starts with a sports star accepting applause from the crowd – a large Tesco label prominent on his shirt. Next we see a racing car claiming the chequered flag – a large Tesco label emblazoned on the car. After a couple of similar clips the screen cuts to text with something like:
“Now we’re in the cell phone business we need to sponsor stuff”

And then the show cuts to a customer looking rather plaintiff asking:
“Couldn’t we just have club card points instead?”
The minor difference of course is Tesco won’t pay money to sports stars. They’ll return it their customer in loyalty points. Not a new message, but brilliantly understated.

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