Dealing with competition in sales

Sun Tzu & Business: Quote of the Week

Do you know your competition (or enemy) ?

What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.

Sun Tzu, Art of War

Can you list your top 5 competitors and their strengths and weaknesses? How would you position your product if asked how you differ from product X or Y, company X or Y? I was in a conversation with the CEO of a startup a few years back at a conference, and little did he know we were a competitor. I asked him, “Who do you see as your top competitor?”. Now I knew full well all his competitors, and as a VP of Sales, I was involved in several deals where we were going head to head. His answer: “We really don’t have any competition, we have a really unique offering.” I almost spit my coffee out. It’s so easy to get stuck in our little silos.

The initial conversation can be critical, and to help get off on the right foot, here are 4 things you should have in your quiver, and know about every competitor to win the battle.

  1. Comparative conversation – product. Be able to answer the “There are so many products that claim to do what you do. How do you compare to X?” This is your first chance to slice the competition and plant some fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). Possible response: “We typically don’t see X much, they are a legacy technology and we can show you some of the key differences that produce higher value outcomes.” Having quick, tested comparative responses can help move the conversation to the next level.
  2. Comparative conversation – company. How are your organizations different? What strengths can you bring to the table to make the difference for the prospect? Are your executives experts in the field? What is your founding story? This can be a core part of the conversation that goes beyond the product conversation, but can help you establish credibility out of the gate. How do you compare to the competition?
  3. The Sales Demo – Nothing drives me more insane than a sales person that says nothing during the demo (mostly for SaaS). WTF? This is your key chance to differentiate the product and chime in at key points of value that differentiate you from the competition. Know your competition, know strengths, know weaknesses. Have a pregame with you SE or tech partner and take calculated shots to differentiate.
  4. The Pricing Game -Know your pricing inside and out, and know how you compare to the competition. Establish your high ground by setting expectations early, and during the sales process justify the value you bring through differentiated product. Not knowing your competitive pricing landscape leads to price battles at the end of the process, deep discounting to match the competition and dollars left on the table.

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