competitive strategy

The competitive strategy represents a sub-segment of the overall sales strategy. Apart from customers, competitors form the second central reference group that must be strategically considered.

The fundamental question here is how a company wants to distinguish itself from the competition in the long term through its sales activities. Every company must clearly define the strategic competitive advantage that ensures its long-term viability. This competitive advantage must meet various requirements:

  • It must be permanent, i.e. it must not be imitable for competition in the short term.
  • It must be perceived by the customer.
  • It must be important to the customer, i.e. it must relate to a feature that is essential to the customer.
  • It must be non-substitutable, i.e. competitors must not be able to substitute the competitive advantage by other abilities or characteristics to provide an equivalent service in the customer’s perception.

When choosing the target competitive advantage, a company has two general options: cost leadership or quality leadership. Companies that are unable or unwilling to pursue a cost leadership due to their cost structure can differentiate in various other ways. In this context, the sales department needs to think about its contribution to the overall differentiation from the competition. Many sales managers underestimate their own importance. In many companies it can be observed that competitive advantages are almost exclusively related to products. However, sales can often play a key role in asserting competitive advantages in the market. In the course of the aggravated differentiation of products and services in many industries, sales as a “competition-relevant instrument” becomes even more important. More and more frequently, the differentiation from the competition must be achieved through sales.

So what differentiation possibilities are influenced by sales? The competitive advantages (1) flexibility, (2) speed, (3) quality of customer service, (4) individuality of services, (5) problem-solving ability, (6) image and (7) information are particularly important.