Don’t be afraid to point out their strengths.
In doing so, you can show you’re even stronger.
Go ahead, raise a figurative glass and toast your competitors! Say what? Yes, I’m suggesting that your selling teams point out competitive options of other stores to demonstrate a superior position in your store. Allow me to explain. Conventional thinking would suggest that a sales person should point out your competition’s flaws to bolster your store or product image with customers. One theory on the origin of “toasting” was the clinking of glasses together to spill drink into others cups to avoid intentional poisoning by an unscrupulous participant. Are you poisoning your own selling opportunity by attempting to poison your competitor?
Negative selling and instilling fear is a challenging way to do business although it is rampant in the marketplace. Allow me to digress. Recently I shopped different companies to manage my retirement portfolio. Being stimulated by their advertising, I approached one company which spent more time defining all the negatives of my current advisory situation and very little on their own company’s positive benefits. My current advisor upon learning of his competitor took a similar approach. Suddenly I didn’t feel comfortable with either choice.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons today’s furniture and mattress shoppers are gravitating to online shopping. Who can they believe when competing stores are bashing each other to woo a sale? I’m not foolishly suggesting you promote your competitor as the best buying option for the customer, but to take their offerings compared to your superior offerings to provide points of differentiation for consumers to consider.
Do a thorough examination of your store’s strengths and weaknesses as well as your competitors. You can learn a great deal about your competitors by sending some sales people to shop them or use a secret shopper service (see related story, page 38). Study their advertising to discern what they view and promote as strengths. Read their reviews both positive and negative to see trends in the customer experience. It might even behoove you to actually make a purchase to fully understand their selling/buying and purchasing process.
Consider comparing the following three key features and benefits of your store versus your competitors with your customers and point out your differences in a positive way.
How does your store’s selection stack up? Are you bigger or smaller than your competitor? If your store is larger, point out to your customers that while smaller stores have a good selection for the consumer to choose from you have a great selection.
If your store is smaller, the approach could be explaining that large stores may have bigger selection, but your store makes shopping easier by offering the best of the best. Regardless of size, if you have special-order capabilities emphasize that benefit. How many special-order options actually exist? Do the math and be prepared to share with customers the potential product opportunities.
How do your prices compare? Boldly suggest that while your competitors put out some strong advertised values, your store works day in and day out to keep overhead low and pass the savings on to customers. Perhaps volume purchasing power or buying inventory with cash creates your competitive pricing. Does your store add value to your pricing with services such as designer advice? Certainly, a strong positive offense is a good defense in this category. Being aware of competitive issues on select items coupled with the proper use of a price guarantee will allow you to be out in front of your competition in a positive way.
Do you offer consumer financing? If you don’t have a solid selection of financing programs that cover good, bad or no-credit customers, consider adding these to your operation. Regardless, you can respond to longer term promotions from competitors by acknowledging that financing is important for furniture purchases and you have choices too. If you have no minimum purchase amounts or no down-payment options, then point those out as a matter of course. If you have a full suite of options, highlight the strength and number of your choices. Some competitors will advertise financing as a primary draw but remember the furniture is the priority for a furniture shopper. The financing may be a deal closer or just icing on the cake. In my experience, many consumers pay off their long-term financing plans early. A bit of dialogue with your customer to find out how much time they really plan to use or need the financing is a way to minimize the longer term offers that might exist at another store.
As we all know, the market place is changing at a rapid pace. Consumers are savvy shoppers and easily see through aggressive or negative sales techniques. Many don’t expect any retailer to be perfect and studies suggest that they are wary of a “5 Star” reviewed store as having manipulated reviews.
Why not set yourself apart from other retailers by focusing on positive selling techniques that support our industry without denigrating your competitors. This may take some re-thinking and re-structuring of your sales training and the mentality of store personnel to present differences in a positive way with a positive impact. Your customers will recognize the difference. So, I raise my glass to toast a positive selling environment and continued selling success! Here Here!