Know Your Competition

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Even if you have not read the Art of War, this quote is simple enough to understand, if you know your competition (the enemy) and you know yourself (specifically, why you are better) you do not need to be afraid if a hundred customers shop you against your competitors.

So, if according to Sun Tzu, if all a salesperson needs to do is know their competition in order to dominate their market, why don’t they?

I would say the reason most salespeople don’t get to know their competition because of one or all of the following reasons:

  • They don’t know who their competition really is
  • They don’t know why they should get to know their competition
  • They don’t know how to find out about their competition
  • They think they know their competition (but they really don’t)

Let’s provide you with some answers:

Who is your competition?

In automotive sales you have two main competitors:

  1. Other Automotive Brands – No matter which manufacture you work for, there are other manufactures or brands that directly compete with the products that you sell. An example of this would be Honda, Toyota, & Nissan are all Japanese manufactures that build similar vehicles that compete with one another. These similar vehicles are typically referred to as segments such as mid-size sedan, which sticking with the previous example Honda builds an Accord, Toyota builds a Camry, and Nissan builds an Altima. All of these vehicles would be considered competition to each other. Most of these manufactures will provide you with some information regarding this competition inside of their factory training, however most salespeople forget everything they learned from this training the second they finish it and never continue to stay on top of it.
  2. Other Dealerships that Sell the Same Brand – Every customer you engage with is or has shopped another dealership that sells the same brand and products that you do. Understanding the difference between these competitor dealerships is more difficult to do and will take more effort than finding out about other brands, however this area is actually more important because you get cross-shopped more against competitive dealerships than competitive brands.

What are your advantages to know your competition?

  1. Differentiate Ourselves – Here’s the problem: Most of us don’t really know what our differentiators are because we haven’t researched our competitors. It’s hard to do well, however it’s critical if you want to dominate your market and close more sales.
  2. Your Competitive Advantages – Understand specifically what your competitive advantages are over other brands and other dealerships. If you do not understand your competitive advantages, your customers will not either.
  3. Understand Your Shortcomings – So you can improve them or be ready to overcome objections about them. You never want to get caught with your pants down. You do not want your customer to ask you a question about how you compare, and you do not know the answer. Shortcomings are ok, as long as you build from them and know how to address them with your customers.
  4. Maximize Your Pitch to Customers with these Advantages – By understanding your competition, your advantages, your shortcomings, and differentiating yourself will give you the opportunity to highlight the benefits that are most important to your customers building the most value!

What ways can to get to know your competition?

See what others are saying about them

The fastest way to learn about your competition is to jump online and search for them. Check out Google and see what comes up. Hit the review sites, such as Google Reviews and Yelp. Find groups and online message boards that discuss your competitors. Also follow them on Facebook, Instagram and other Social Media platforms. It is important to take everything that you find with a grain of salt. Look more for things that happen consistently versus the outliers. Additionally, when you deal with customers that have or plan to shop these competitors ask them questions, like “why are you considering that”, “what do you like about them” and “what don’t you like about them?”

You want to find out what you can about the particulars of what they provide and the strengths and weaknesses of the service. Pay special attention to your competitor’s weaknesses – these will be opportunities for you and your dealership to develop differentiation and competitive advantages.

You will need to do this for both your other Brand competitors as well as other Dealership competitors. And remember, this is not about gathering information so you can bash your competitors, this is about gathering information in order to be better than them.

Go directly to the source

Yes, you can go directly to your competitors and interact with them directly. This is also known as mystery shopping. I would recommend the following Mystery Shops:

Competitive Brands

  • In-person Visit
  • Phone Opportunity
  • Internet Opportunity

Competitive Dealerships

  • In-person Visit
  • Phone Opportunity
  • Internet Opportunity

I know this seems like a lot of work, however, that is what everything that is worth while is built upon. This could be one of the most valuable lessons you will ever learn in this business. You will not only learn about your competition’s strengths and weaknesses, but you will also learn a few things about your own. I guarantee you will find things the other dealerships do that you do agree with or that does not feel right as a customer and then you will realize that you do those same things with your customers.

However, you go about learning about your competition, compiling information about them will make your sales pitch more effective. You might even find a thing or two that you really like that you can steal. I mean imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Up your game and investment in yourself by learning about your competition.



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