David and Goliath – the sales story

Sales lessons from David and Goliath

Long ago in the Valley of Elah a small boy met a great giant in an epic battle of one-on-one combat.  Much to the surprise of many, the small boy armed only with a sling and a rock carried the day.

Fast forward.  In today’s market many sales reps must replay the David and Goliath story.  They represent smaller companies that are competing against account executives from market giants.  So, what are they to do?  How can they repeat the success experienced by young David all those many years ago? Clearly the weapon of choice of yesteryear is no longer a viable option.  So, let’s explore some ideas that a sales rep can use when they’re David and the other guy is Goliath.

First, one basic assumption is useful to get on the table.  If you are competing against Goliath, it probably means the opportunity is a large account – perhaps a larger account then you have been selling to. This means you need to review with your sales manager the differences that are inherent in selling to major accounts.  In general major account are not just big little accounts; they are qualitatively different.

With that assumption on the table, what can a David do to defeat a Goliath and win the business?  Some suggestions:

  • Develop a comprehensive understanding of the company. Today the available information tools enable the individual to research the background of a company and the trends in the industry.  You can develop just as good or better understanding as the rep from the big company if time and effort are put into preparation.  So make sure you really understand the company’s structure and plans for the future and the economic and business trends that will shape the industry.
  • Do a better job at pre-call planning. One of the things we know is pre-call planning works.  Sales reps who do a better job at pre-call planning tend to be more successful.  This is all about effort.  So being a giant doesn’t give you an advantage.  Know the objective and how you’re going to achieve it for every interaction with the customer.  The extra bit of good news is that better pre-call planning is always visible and impressive to the customer – you create a lasting positive image.
  • Provide extraordinary value. Sales reps can provide value by the way the sell, as well as, what they sell.  So when it comes to sales process be faster, better, quicker – because that is probably what it will take.  Do everything you can to get on the customer’s side of the table.  Do a better job than the other guy on understanding the breath and depth of the customer’s problems and bring imagination and innovation to your solution.

Winning against the larger market leader is not easy – but it is also not impossible.  It takes effort and being smart about how you leverage your resources.  This is a case where success breeds confidence and confidence breeds more success.  David is still getting very good press for beating Goliath so it is worth the effort.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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