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Sales Strategies
How Winners Trap Their Competition
By Dave Stein, CEO, ES Research Group

Sales executives must be able to protect their value proposition from their competition or else they are risking  more then they might realize.

You can sell all the business value you want to all the real buyers, but if you aren't protecting your value proposition from competitive attack, your deal, your commission, and maybe even your job will be at risk.

A mousetrap makes a great analogy when it comes to understanding how to protect your deal by setting traps for your competition.  (Trap setting is an advanced selling skill that must be employed with the highest degree of professionalism and integrity.)

I recently ran a workshop for a software client entitled, "How Winners Compete." In the session we covered a number of strategies, counterstrategies, tactics and counter tactics, all of which, when used appropriately, would provide my client's sales teams with new levels of competitiveness.

The first counter tactic we discussed was trapping a competitor's behavior or action.  I asked the team to describe what must be considered for a mousetrap to get the job done.  I got some insightful responses:
  • You must have identified certain behavior as unacceptable or damaging.
  • You need to know something about your mouse.
  • The right bait must be used.
  • It must be positioned in a place where you know the mouse is going to go.
  • It must be the appropriate size.  Too big and the mouse sneaks through.  Too small and it has no effect.
  • You can get your own fingers mangled in a mousetrap, if you aren't very careful.
  • You can't be present for it to work. 
  • You must use the trap in the way it was designed to be used, i.e. it isn't worth the effort to throw the trap at the mouse.
  • You need to do a bit of planning: recognize you have a problem, buy the trap, buy the bait, figure out the best place to set the trap, etc.
  • You need some patience.

Once we had gone through this list, the team was ready to begin considering how they might trap their competition.

Setting a Trap

In any situation where you need to trap a competitor's actions, behavior, or practices, you'll first have to determine if what you expect them to do is trappable.  Using the mousetrap model, consider what they will do, when they will do it, what might be done to catch them, the potential risks for you, the rewards for stopping them in their tracks, the timing, and whom you can count on in the account to help you (if help is required), among other things. This process can be used no matter what you are selling in any industry.  As you read through this example, envision how you would set a trap for a competitor in your own situation. 

One of my client

Dave Stein, after 25 years in sales leadership positions and delivering his own sales training and consulting worldwide, founded ES Research Inc. ESR offers independent, authoritative advice on Sales Training and Consulting and the Companies that provide it through weekly briefs, in-depth reports, online seminars and advisory services. For more information go to or call 508.313.9585

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