Run a Competitive Analysis
Knowing where your competitors stand on key metrics and how their sales processes work can provide valuable insights into how you may be able to improve your own organization and processes.
Just keep in mind that your most successful competitor is not necessarily a representation of the biggest possible success in your industry. They may be wildly inefficient themselves! If anything, they are a marker for the minimum you can achieve.
What to compare
You can learn much both from your competitors’ successes and their failures. When you can find this information, pay particular attention to the following:
How many current customers they have
How many leads they generate
How large their salesforce is
How their salesforce is paid
The frequency and content of their e-mails
Their selling points, slogans, phone greetings, and other sales verbiage
How to gather information
If your competitors are public companies, you can access much of the information about their customer base, revenues, and even future goals in their public filings. Look on their website or search the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s website. There may be additional data available at Data.gov, particularly localized portals such as Cities.Data.gov, Counties.Data.gov, States.Data.gov.
For private competitors, this task is a bit harder, but you can still find out a lot by looking online. Press releases, although they are not guaranteed to be 100 percent factual, can give you a good idea of the number of employees and/or customers, and of new product offerings.
In either case, you can learn much of what you want to know about their sales processes by simply calling up and pretending to be a customer. If you feel this is dishonest, know that they have almost certainly called you posing as a customer before.
It’s an incredibly common practice, and in most cases it’s relatively harmless. (This does not work well in cases where the only possible deal is a multimillion dollar contract that takes a year to close. That’s a poor use of your time and a waste of their salesperson’s time.)
You should also sign up (under an anonymous e-mail address) for your competitors’ mailing lists, demos, and other online materials. Knowledge is power here!