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Preface

Ihave more than 200 books on my bookshelf about selling.

They all say pretty much the same thing, that selling involves

two people—the seller and the buyer. They say if

the seller can build a relationship with the buyer, find out

what the buyer needs, then bring in what the buyer needs,

the seller will be rewarded.

The reality is that there are three people in the selling

interview—the buyer, the seller, and the unseen current

provider. Not only do you have to be great at building relationships,

you’d better be great at busting the incumbent

relationship.

The biggest challenge with traditional selling methods

is that they don’t have a strategy for dealing with the

third party, the incumbent. Unless you have a strategy for

driving a wedge between the buyer and the current

provider in order to get your competition fired, the chance

is very good that the incumbent will leverage the existing

relationship with the client (your prospect) to get a “last

look” and match your proposal. You’ve just been rolled.

So the question is, how do you Get Your Competition

Fired without saying anything bad about them? Read on. . . .

Introduction

The #1 Obstacle to

Most New Business

This book is the result of more than 10,000 hours I have

spent working with salespeople.

A lot of them, perhaps like you, were very motivated,

smart, hardworking, and yet frustrated. They were frustrated

because they were not achieving the high goals they

had set for themselves. For them, hard work did not always

mean a higher income.

These were people who appeared to be doing everything

right. They were excellent communicators and great

relationship builders. They listened to their prospects.

They were helpful and friendly. They brought back great

proposals at great prices. And on too many occasions, they

still did not get the business.

What I learned from my experience has helped many

of these people achieve their personal goals of doubling or

tripling their incomes, having more time for their families

and other personal relationships, and realizing the professional

success that had escaped them for so long.

How did they do it? Did they work longer hours? Did

they call on more prospects? No. In fact, they quit playing

the numbers game. Instead, they focused their limited time

and energy on overcoming the number one obstacle to

selling most new business—their competition.

The Garden-Variety Sales Call

Many salespeople, when they target a prospect, are naturally

eager to call on the prospect and start building a relationship. After doing a limited amount of research, they

contact the prospect and schedule an initial appointment.

The typical sales call follows a predictable pattern, going

through three stages.

Stage 1

In the first stage, the salesperson has learned enough to ask

questions that make sense. He or she has done some research

(not a lot yet), and is set on creating a friendly rapport

to get things off to a good start. The conversation

goes something like this:

Seller: “Hello, Ray. I really appreciate your seeing me

today. How are things going?”

Prospect: “Pretty good, Bill. How about you?”

Seller: “Oh, fine. Thanks for asking. Tell me, how’s

business?”

Prospect: “Everything is going fine.”

Seller: “Well, as you know, I’m with Greater Smithville

Community Bank. We’ve been in business since

1953, and we’ve got 12 branches now in the

Smithville metropolitan area, not including our

other ATM locations. We’re proud to be the

banker for three other local firms in your industry.

We sure would like to have a chance to handle

your banking needs for you. Whom do you

bank with now?”

Prospect: “We’ve been with Giant National Bank for

six years, ever since they bought Smithville First,

our previous banker.”

Seller: “How’s it going with Giant National?”

Prospect: “Fine.”

Seller: “Any problems with service?”

Prospect: “Not really anything to speak of.”

Seller: “What are your gross annual sales, Ray, more

or less?”

Prospect: “Well, last year they were $30 million, and

this year I think we’ll be at about $42 million.”

Seller: “I see. Any concerns with the rates Giant National

gives you on loans, certificates of deposit,

other financial products?”

Prospect: “No. They’ve done a good job. Their rates

seem to be about normal.”

Seller: “What about your line of credit? Have they

treated you right on that?”

Prospect: “Well, it could always be a little more, I

suppose.”

Seller: “What about fees and other extra charges?”

Prospect: “Nothing special. They ding us on something

occasionally, but for the most part they’re pretty

normal.”

Seller: “Great. Ray, I’d like to put together a proposal

for you. I’d like to lay out what we can do for you

as your banker as you continue to grow. If we can

improve your line of credit and potentially save

you some money on other things, is there any

reason why we can’t do business?”

Prospect: “No, not at all. We’d be happy to entertain

what you’ve got.”

Bill takes the information back to the main office, and

brings up the “Proposal” form on his computer screen. He

starts adapting it to fit the size of Ray’s company, and he

drops the name of Ray’s company into the boilerplate language.

He consults the Giant National marketing materials

he has on file, looking up Giant National’s typical rates and

charges for small business customers like Ray. When his

vice president for business development, Ruth, asks him

how the new business appointment went, he tells her that

the prospect does not have any real problems to speak of,

but would be interested in an expanded line of credit,

which Greater Smithville Community Bank can do, and in

saving some on fees and other charges. They nod their

heads in agreement.

Stage 2

After Bill has completed his proposal, he puts it together in

a slick packaged presentation, and he calls Ray and sets up

an appointment.

Seller: “Thanks for having me back out, Ray. I think

you’ll like what I’m going to tell you.”

Prospect: “Sounds good. What have you got?”

Seller: “Well, basically we can expand your line of

credit by another $300,000, plus we can waive or

reduce a lot of the annoying charges you pay for

things like online bill payment, loan application

fees, and detailed summary statements. In fact,

we’ll even reimburse the ATM fees you pay when

you withdraw money from your business account

while you’re traveling anywhere in the United

States. So what do you think?”

Prospect: “Well, Bill. It looks pretty good. I appreciate

what you came up with. We’ll definitely consider

your proposal. Let me look over what you put together,

and we can talk next week.”

Seller: “Well, Ray, this is a pretty competitive proposal.

Any reason we can’t get started now?”

Prospect: “Bill, I like what you’ve got here. I would just

like a few days to study it some. Please call me in

a few days.”

Seller: “That’s fine, Ray. I’ll check back with you in a

few days.”

Bill returns to his office and he runs into Ruth again.

When she asks him how it went, he tells her, “Terrific. I’d

say we’ve got an excellent chance. I’ve got a nice rapport

going with Ray. He likes what we brought to the table. I

expect we’ll hear something in the next few days.”

Stage 3

Meanwhile, Ray calls his banker at Giant National to talk

about the upcoming year. He asks what Giant National

might be able to offer based on his growth, and whether he

might be able to save any on his fees and charges. The

banker gets the feeling that something is going on, and he

asks Ray if he has some concerns. Ray tells him that, yes,

he is considering making a change, but he wanted to see

what Giant National could do before he did. At that point,

Ray’s banker asks for a visit, and he gets in his car to go to

see Ray.

Current Banker: “Ray, I appreciate your call today. I

wanted to tell you how much your business

means to us. As you know, we’ve always been

willing to jump through hoops to meet your financial

needs. I don’t know who you’re talking

to, or what they might be telling you, but I’m

sure we can expand your line of credit and be as

competitive on fees and charges as anyone. If we

can do that, do you see any reason why we can’t

continue our relationship? I know we can work

out whatever might be bothering you.”

Bill’s Prospect: “You’ve done a good job for us. If you

can help me out on the things I’ve mentioned,

we’ll stay with you.”

Current Banker: “I’m sure we can, Ray.”

A few days later, Bill calls Ray. He reaches Ray’s voice

mail, and leaves a message that he is checking in. The next

day, Ray finally returns his call.

Seller: “Hi, Ray. So how did we do?”

Prospect: “You were really thorough, and I want to

thank you for going through the trouble of getting

us the proposal. I guess what it came down to

is that the line of credit issue and the fees and

charges weren’t something we couldn’t deal with

without changing horses right now.”

Seller: “Okay, Ray. I hear you. Let me do this. I’ll keep

in touch, and maybe I can come back out there

later this year and see where you are then.”

Bill makes a note to call on Ray again in six months.

When Ruth sticks her head in the door to see how it went,

Bill explains, “Maybe we couldn’t improve Ray’s situation

enough compared with what Giant National is doing for

him. But, anyway, he seems too satisfied right now to

switch banks. I’ll keep after it, though.”

Bill just got “rolled.” It happens to many salespeople who

go in slinging their sales pitch and often are too ready to

offer a quote to try to save the prospect money. The real

problem is that Bill had a weak sales strategy. Although he

made an effort to find out about any problems or frustrations

that his prospect might be having with Giant National

Bank, his process did not find any that made a big

enough difference. Nor did he take into account that Giant

National already had the relationship, and probably would

get—and did get—a chance to explain its own advantages,

improve Ray’s line of credit, and lower or waive a fee here

and there when he called to compare. Bill also failed to differentiate

Greater Smithville Community Bank from Giant

National. He merely talked about the fact that his bank

had a local presence, its years in business, its locations, its

customers—the things that make most banks the same.

In short, Bill made no effort to identify any truly

meaningful differences between his own bank and his competition,

Giant National. He identified nothing that would

strongly motivate Ray to consider switching. As a result, he

never really had anything to sell other than a price difference

and the same willingness to expand his prospect’s line

of credit that other banks have. Like many salespeople who

rely on traditional selling methods, he got rolled.

Tactics You Can Use Right Away

In this book I show how to overcome the natural advantage

of the current provider, and how to gain an edge over any

competitor. I give you proven tactics that you can use to

get your competition fired from an account, or from being

considered for an open account that you want, without

your having to say anything bad about your rivals. Together,

these tactics and the strategy on which they are

based are known as The Wedge.

If you are like me, you have sat through many sales

courses and read the standard books. I remember walking

into many of these classes saying to myself, “If I can get

just one good idea, this is probably worthwhile.” Many of

the good ideas that I got, though, were so conceptual that

it took a lot of time to convert them into day-to-day,

practical methods that would help me sell more now and

make more money. It was like going to a supermarket for

dinner rather than going to a restaurant. At a supermarket,

you have to buy all the ingredients, take them home,

and prepare your meal yourself rather than walking in,

ordering something off the menu, and leaving 30 minutes

later satisfied.

Unlike traditional selling, The Wedge is a ready-toeat

meal. This book gives you simple, practical techniques that have worked for others. I am not talking about ideas,

concepts, and theories that leave it up to you to figure out

how to apply them. I am talking about no-nonsense, easyto-

grasp tactics that you can start using tomorrow morning

to get results.

The Wedge is not an alternative to Selling 101. As

we discuss The Wedge, I assume that you know many of

the basics of selling—how to create rapport, effective

communications skills, and so on. Unavoidably, some of

the ground we cover may sound familiar to you. However,

you will notice an important difference. The

Wedge, with its focus on the relationship between your

prospect and your competitor, takes the selling process

to a higher level. It is more like Sales 401, building on

what you already know.

The Wedge is based on a practical reality that traditional

selling largely ignores. Conventional wisdom says a

selling situation involves two parties—a seller and a buyer.

Conventional wisdom is wrong. Most major selling opportunities

involve three parties—you, the prospect, and your

competition. Until you have a strategy for dealing with

your opponents, you do not have a sure prospect.

The salesperson who currently has an account is particularly

in the driver’s seat. He or she already has the relationship

with the prospect, and is going to do everything

possible to keep the business. Therefore, to create an opportunity

to win the account, you must first drive a wedge

between your prospect and the provider. Of course, here is

the problem. You cannot walk into prospects’ offices and

start bad-mouthing the companies whose services they

made the decision to employ. Do that, and you might as well say, “Let me get this straight, Joe. Were you the person

who actually hired these people?”

Your challenge is—without criticizing your competition—

to help your prospects see that they are being underserved

by your rivals leading them to decide on their own

that they would be better off if they switched or gave their

business to you. Learn how to do that, and you can start

winning larger, more profitable accounts faster than you

ever have.

Facing a Fundamental Truth

I also wrote this book because other sales books (and I have

read most of them) do not address a fundamental truth

about selling. Most of the time, someone must lose for you

to win. That is the truth.

Yet, calculating how to get people fired is often considered

harsh at best and unethical at worst. Civilized

people do not set out to take bread off the tables of their

competitors. So we fancy selling as a solo sport, like figure

skating. You skate out onto the ice. You smile and do

your routine, hoping that your artistry and technical skills

will impress the judges enough for you to win the gold.

You nail your triple axels, and become one with the music.

When you have finished your presentation, you take a

bow and wait for the judges to hold up their cards. You

wait confidently, thinking to yourself, “I know I’m going

to get a 10.” Blissful and expectant, you look at the crowd

on the edge of its seats, sharing this moment with you,

and then . . .

Wham!

Just like in hockey, someone comes skating out of

nowhere, knocks you off your imagined pedestal, and

skates away with your medal. Welcome to the real world,

where selling is a contact sport, where often the prospect

and a person who already has the business are the home

team, and where you are the visiting underdog.

The Golden Rule

Even when they realize that selling is a contact sport, some

salespeople feel squeamish about waking up each day and

figuring out whose accounts they can take away. Somehow,

we have gotten the idea that getting people fired replaces

the Golden Rule with the cynical notion that gold rules,

and decency be damned. “Hi, honey. I’m home. Guess

what? I got three people axed today. Pretty cool, huh?”

This notion is 180 degrees wrong. If you are not successful

at getting buyers out of inferior relationships and

into better ones, you are leaving those buyers stuck with

mediocre service for weeks, months, or years. If you do not

help them see the difference and gain the courage to fire—

or not to hire—your competition, then you are letting

them down. You are doing unto them what you would not

want them to do unto you. This is especially important today,

when every company must measure up to a general

standard in order to stay in business and do well.

If your company cannot do a better job than your rival,

then yes, it would be wrong for you to bust the relationship

only to then give your new client inferior service;

but if you are truly better, then you owe it to yourself and

your prospect to do all you can to get your competition

fired so that you can take over the account.

The Virtue of Being Fired

For the intelligent salesperson, getting fired for the right

reason is a blessing in disguise. For average salespeople, it

is just something bad that happened to them. Smart salespeople,

however, use the experience to focus on what they

were doing wrong, and how they can become better. To the

degree that the threat of losing an account makes them

work harder to win and keep their customers, that is a good

outcome, too. In either case, seeking to have them fired

sorts the deck of business relationships into pairs that are

healthier and more productive all the way around.

Getting unworthy service providers fired is also good

for the economy. When you lose a sale because you did not

have a strategy for taking out your competitor, it is not just

a setback for you. Everybody loses. You lose time. Your

company loses money. Your prospect loses the benefit of

what you failed to sell. And all of us pay higher prices for

the goods and services we buy as your company passes

along its higher-than-necessary “sales acquisition costs.”

Why The Wedge Works

If you are like me, you are skeptical about theories and abstract

models when it comes to selling. You know how

things work in the real world. No course or textbook can

fully capture what a salesperson goes through. The Wedge

is not merely a model. It is a complete selling system with a

proven set of tactics wrought from actual sales experience.

It is a step-by-step process; you and your company can use

it to drill down and find your true competitive advantage,

break it down into simple chunks, and put these chunks

into questions to ask your prospects. These questions will

get them to see that they are being underserved and that

they would be better off with you—without your having

said saying anything bad about your competition or telling

your prospects how great you are.

Your Real Competitive Advantage

The Wedge works also because it is based on finding and

using your real competitive advantage. What do I mean by

real competitive advantage?

Your company and others basically compete on three

things: price, product, and service. When it comes to price,

your competitors in most cases can beat your price if they

choose to. How great a salesperson does it take to sell on

price? Moreover, price differences among comparable services

and products are usually too marginal to be decisive.

There is no sustainable competitive advantage in price.

As far as most products are concerned, there is not a

lot of real differentiation among them within the same

category. If you do offer a product with a truly meaningful

difference, then you can leverage that. More often than

not, however, product differences are not major enough to make a significant difference in the salability of those

products. So there is no sustainable competitive advantage

here, either.

When it comes to service, companies provide reactive

and proactive service. Reactive service is the way you

respond to client problems, concerns, and issues that

arise. Do you have good people who promptly return

phone calls? Do you effectively troubleshoot situations

brought to your attention by your clients? Most companies

do a reasonably good job of reactive service. Therefore,

reactive service seldom gives a business a powerful

competitive edge.

Of all of these competitive areas, proactive service offers

the greatest potential for you to differentiate yourself

from the competition and win new business. Here is a

mantra to repeat: “My job as a salesperson is to proactively

control the experiences of my clients, making their future more

predictable.” You need to give your prospects and your

clients a defined process where things do not fall through

the cracks. That is what you have to sell. This book discusses

in detail what proactive service means. Essentially,

proactive service is the day-to-day things you do to control

the experiences of your clients and make their future

more predictable.

Remember Bill, the banker? He offered no proactive

service to make his prospect’s future more predictable,

such as a regular business plan review. He tried to sell on

price, and he got rolled by the prospect’s current bank,

which merely had to react to his offer to leverage its incumbent

position and keep the account.

Proactive service is your number one responsibility, and the surest way to win and keep new accounts. Most

companies do not take advantage of this reality. If they focus

on service, they focus on reactive service. They do not

clearly articulate the specific things they do proactively

that make them different and better. That is your competitive

advantage, and you can leverage that competitive advantage

using The Wedge.

Most prospects are being underserved in some way.

Many of them are in business relationships that, for various

reasons, they lack the incentive to change. Some of them

are in the market looking for what you offer, but they have

a provider in place that has always been able to persuade

them not to switch. Others are shopping anew, but have

low service expectations that give your inferior competitors

an opening. If you could get these underserved businesses

to realize for themselves that they would be better off buying

from you, that could be worthwhile, couldn’t it?