We are always competing. Whether you are in a foot race, a football game, a presidential debate, a job interview, fighting for a parking spot, or selling Girl Scout cookies. Competition is a great thing and let's face it, it's a hell of a lot of fun - especially when you win! For most people, there is something inexplicably compelling about the nature of competition. Perhaps that’s because (some scholars argue) “competitiveness” is a biological trait that co-evolved with the basic need for human survival (Sander van der Linden, PhD). Economists will tell you that competition is an essential force in maintaining productive and efficient markets (i.e., without basic competition between firms, monopolies will form which can have negative ripple-effects for the consumer).
Organized competitions have been going on for centuries. The Greeks held the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. (in honor of Zeus) and they took place every four years as they still do today (called an Olympiad). Competition is everywhere in modern society and a competitive attitude is bestowed in all of us. However, the way in which you approach the competition is very important to understand and this article will help you go about it the right way and lead you to more sales.
Watch What You Say
When it comes to business, you have to be careful what you say as it relates to your competition. It's a war zone out there, we all know it, and it's easy to bash your competitors. This comes natural for lousy salespeople. That's not you. Bashing the competition irritates the hell out of customers and it shows insecurity, weakness, and is poor business practice. Here's what best selling author and sales guru, Jeffrey Gitomer, says about bashing the competitor which I completely agree with:
"What you say about your competition is a true reflection of your persona. And even more powerful, it creates one of the key elements of the customer’s perception of you as a person. Part of their value judgment as they look to move forward – with or without you." - Jeffrey Gitomer
It's not your job to speak negatively about your competition, it's your job to solve the customer's problems and add value to their business.
Instead of bashing the competition, try using these 3 Tips:
1. Steer Back to Value
When your prospect asks you the question, "How do you compare to XYZ company?" The first thing I do is say something positive about the competitor. Yep, you heard me right. I say something good about them as a company or what their product does or the service they bring. The reason is, most salespeople (fortunately) respond immediately with something negative to say about their competitor. Don't be like everyone else. Point out something they do well (but you do better) and steer the conversation back towards how you will tackle their business problem and add more value. This doesn't mean you should start rattling off a bunch of features you have that the competitor doesn't. This won't differentiate yourself since it's highly unlikely the customer will even remember all of these features, especially if they are features they don't need or care about. Customers remember the benefits and value they get from the features that are most important to them.
For example, let's say you are selling wheelchairs and your prospect works with families that travel a lot and mobility is important. If your prospect asks, "How do you compare to ABC Wheelchair, LLC?" A great response would be:
"ABC Wheelchair makes a solid lightweight chair. Our wheelchair is 10 pounds lighter than similar wheelchairs out there, this makes it easier to lift up and put into the car so your loved ones can attend more outings."
2. Bring Up the Competition Early
There is a competitor in every deal. If you think there isn't, you're lying to yourself. Even if the customer tells you, "we are only looking at you," there is always that competitor we all hate called "Do Nothing." Knowing that the competition always exists, bring it up early as can be seen as a sign of respect and can help you weed out the competition sooner. A great best practice is to provide the prospect a list of requirements or success criteria in the beginning of the sales process. You may have heard this referred to as a "lockout document." This list should highlight areas that differentiate you from the competition and demonstrate what other similar customers required when vetting out a solution.
Best selling author, Jill Konrath, uses the following email when she sends out her lockout document:
"Mr Prospect. I assume you're looking at several options, and what's most important to you is finding the best fit for your business. I want the same thing. That's why I've prepared this list of criteria that you might want to consider as you evaluate the vendors. I work with clients on these things all the time and ultimately these are what make the difference." - Jill Konrath
Author of Secrets of the Sales Funnel, Ray Leone says to refer to the competition as the "indsutry standard." Going back to the wheelchair example, you could use his tactic by starting an early conversation stating, “Industry standard is ABC Wheelchair, but we are ABC Wheelchair with wheelchairs 10 pounds lighter than similar chairs out there.”
3. Leverage Customer Testimonials
Customer testimonials are your most powerful tool in any sales situation. At the end of the day, prospects are going to believe what actual customers say over what you say. If you have a customer who used your competitor's product or service before and moved over to you, this is the haymaker. If you don't have one that came from the competitor, that's ok, hearing about how someone similar used your solution to bring value to the business is more influencial than anything you could ever tell them. The only time bashing a competitor is ever ok is when your customer does it.
Here are some key facts around customer testimonials that you should know:
Customer testimonials are more effective than analysts’ reports
Recent research by TechValidate discovered that 94% of B2B marketing and sales professionals rated content sourced from real customers (like customer testimonials) as “very effective” or “extremely effective.” By contrast, only 54% of 3rd party analyst content was rated the same way.
Customer testimonials significantly contribute to purchase decisions
78% of Americans report that online reviews help them decide whether they should purchase a product, according to a study by Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange (OTX)
Customer testimonials and reviews are better lead generators than case studies
In a 2013 LinkedIn study, it was discovered that customer testimonials and case studies are considered the two most effective content marketing tactics
I will leave you with Jeff Gitomer's, "Strategies to Master," around competition:
Speak kindly of your competition, or say nothing.
Respect them, and others will respect you.
If others speak negatively, DO NOT join in.
Know their weaknesses, but focus on your strength and value.
Know why they won, when you should have.
Know how they speak about you, and build response into your presentation.
Know how to beat them until they hate you.
Your victory is when you get the order.
Find this article interesting? Check out more blog posts by James Purvis @www.jameswpurvis.com