There are two hidden competitors that stall sales pipeline development more than any other—and they are not the ones you are probably thinking of. In fact every company, every product, faces these two hidden competitors. You can’t escape them. Not only that, they are the first barrier you face—before you encounter any of the competitors you typically analyze closely.
And yet, these two hidden competitors block almost all prospecting attempts right from the start. Without fully understanding them, there is really no effective way to counter them. And without countering them effectively, sales pipeline development will stall.
What Every B2B Sales Leader can Learn From…Coca Cola
Huh? Yes, actually, the soft drink industry is a perfect way for B2B companies to understand the real competitors they face—including hidden competitors—so they can rapidly and consistently build quality sales pipelines.
For generations, Coca Cola’s direct competitor has been Pepsi, especially in the cola market. However, Coca Cola also faces a category of competitors that includes all soft drink products: root beer, ginger ale, seven up, and so on. In addition to the soft drink category competitors, Coca Cola also faces a broader generic group of competitors consisting of all beverage products including bottled water, coffee and tea, and including beer and wine. It has to win, not just against cola makers, not just against all soft drink makers, but also against all packaged beverage product makers.
However, those are not even the most formidable competitors it faces. Coca Cola must first overcome the two hidden competitors before it encounters the ones mentioned above.
Time and Budget: The Two Hidden Competitors
Every product competes for time and budget—and Coca Cola is no exception. While the average Coke product typically costs under $2, that is the first hurdle for someone who has limited budget (perhaps is in between jobs and conscious of spending money). To such a person, the choice becomes buying Coke, or buying cigarettes (if he is a smoker); buying Coke or buying food; buying Coke or buying gas…you get the point.
And, for the person who has $2 she can spend on Coke, there is still another competitor—time. With over 5,000 marketing messages she sees/hears each day, Coke is competing for her attention every waking moment of her life. If Coke hasn’t turned itself into a default purchase (which is why it spends about $4 billion in advertising alone each year), then someone else likely gets her attention first. And Coke loses to whatever she elected to purchase instead.
The Two Hidden Competitors are Even Harder to Beat in B2B
Do B2B companies have to face the two hidden competitors, time and budget? Oh yes. In fact they are even more difficult to beat in the B2B arena. Here is why.
In B2C, every consumer is essentially a decision maker, typically for herself, but sometimes for a family.
In B2B, however, decision makers tend to be far fewer—they are by definition the most senior people in the company, and there are only a few of those.
Therefore, every vendor is essentially competing for the time and attention of a very few decision makers. And this holds true whether they are direct, category, or generic competitors.
Let’s say you sell a software product–say a CRM specifically designed for the Mortgage Industry targeting the Head of Sales and CFO of these mortgage lenders. You may have two or three direct competitors who also sell CRM products designed for mortgage lenders. But you also compete against all CRM category competitors including the big gorillas, Salesforce, HubSpot, and Microsoft Dynamics. Furthermore, you compete against the generic competitors that sell software based productivity tools (Google Suite, Microsoft Office, etc).
But, before you even compete with any of them, your Sales Development Reps (SDRs) first have to get the attention of the decision maker—who is also targeted by non-software vendors, not to mention her own direct report, her boss, and other internal stakeholders.
So, if your SDR wants to talk to the CFO, he must get her or attention first. Once he does that, then he has a chance to present his company’s products—which is when he starts facing each type of competitor (generic, category, and direct).
Did we mention “budget” yet?
Well, assuming your SDR got the attention of the decision maker (prospect), and he is now trying to qualify the decision maker for pain, timeline, etc, the prospect is asking a question in her head—what does this “thing”cost? She wants to know if this “thing” is in the ballpark of her available budget or if she has to work hard to get the money.
Budget may not be the first hurdle your SDRs need to overcome, but it certainly comes before any other competitor you typically target.
Where are We Going With This?
The first thing that every SDR on your team needs to know is that time is the most precious and the most fungible resource that any decision maker has. The “two minutes” your SDRs are asking of that decision maker to hear them out is the “two minutes” every other competitor is asking for, not to mention anyone that reports to her or she reports to in her own organization.
There just aren’t enough two minutes in her day.
Remember, she is a decision maker. The very first decision she has to make is to give your SDR that “two minutes”. What has your SDR given her, in the way of information, for her to assess whether that’s in her best interest to do so? What has your SDR said, immediately after connecting, that tells her the two minutes she is spending with your SDR has a higher return than the hundreds of other requests for her time?
It’s not about a Playbook. It’s about a Saybook.
Those in Sales talk about a Sales Playbook. The sales playbook details out the game plan: the target industry and personas, the messaging, in what format, sequence, and date intervals the message is delivered and so on.
Yes, the playbook is necessary, even critical. But your SDRs are likely to be young, probably fresh out of college, and don’t yet have the sophistication to get all this information quickly—much less use it effectively.
Playbooks don’t work, because SDRs can’t really use them as they are talking to a prospect. Here is why.
If your SDRs’ target persona is, say, a busy CXO who has to work 10, 11, 12 hour days, they better know how to get that decision maker’s attention very quickly—as in the first 10 seconds.
In order to do that, your SDRs must know what that persona does in that particular industry or sector. From there, they must clearly understand how their company’s product or service changes a key metric for that decision maker. Now, if they can quickly and clearly articulate that, then they get their prospect’s attention.
And the only way that they can say that quickly (as in 10 seconds) and clearly, is if they state their compelling opening in the fewest words possible that dont need more explanation.
That means, they must speak the language that their prospects use—the acronyms, the “shop talk”, the vernacular. If they can do that, then 10 seconds is plenty to get a prospect’s attention—which by the way, is exactly what your best SDRs are doing right now.
As you can see, a playbook won’t help your SDRs as they are talking to a prospect. What they need is a saybook.
Here is what we have said so far.
- Time and budget are the hidden competitors that act as gatekeepers to your prospects. If you can’t get past these two, you don’t have to worry about any other competitor.
- Time, even more than budget, is the critical gatekeeper since it is the hardest to get from a busy decision maker. You literally compete with everyone in the world, inside and outside your prospect’s company, for her time.
- Your SDRs have 10 seconds to articulate how your company’s product or service can change a critical metric for your prospect. Otherwise, she is not interested and hangs up.
- In order to be that clear and crisp, your SDRs must know exactly what their prospect does in that industry, and how your company product impacts what they do.
- And your SDRs must be able to say that in the prospect’s language, so it comes out quick, crisp, and credible.
Simple, but not easy to do.
Two weeks, 25%, 30 days
If I still have your attention so far, I hear you asking, “Okay, but how does this happen? We’ve been trying to get our SDRs to do that and it takes months for them to get there.”
The gibberish heading above means you can get your SDRs to be fluent at getting a decision maker’s attention in 10 seconds within two weeks. And as a consequence, you can see your sales pipeline improve by 25% or more in 30 days.
We are doing that right now with the SOMAmetrics Intelligent Prospecting solution or SIP.
Give them a Saybook, not a playbook. That’s how you get them ramped up in weeks rather than months.
If you are interested in finding out more, let’s schedule a demo/call so we can show you how.