“How should I talk about my competition to customers and prospects?”
A great question and deceptive complex question that I get asked a fair bit.
Of course, as salespeople, we have a natural tendency to want to defend our products and services but also to elevate and differentiate them over our competitors.
At the same time, we need to do it all in a way that comes off as authentic and credible and not arrogant or petty. After all, the way we talk about our competitors not only influences the way our buyers see our solutions but also our personal and corporate brand.
Here are five tips for talking about your competition:
1. Do discovery before responding
Just like when customers raise objections around price or features, competitive threats often bait us into launching into a competitive positioning monologue! But before you get too carried away it can often help to stop and ask the customer about the nature of their question so you can respond appropriately.
For example, you might ask what the customer’s experience with that vendor has been so far. What have they seen or heard that they’ve liked or didn’t like? Is there a particular area of competitive differentiation they are focused on?
You might be surprised by what you learn, not only about your competition, but your customer’s perception of them. All of which can help frame your approach to responding.
2. Don’t bash. Be diplomatic
As much as you might think of your competitors as your enemy, the reality is, even your most notorious competitors have customers who love them. Your competition is worthy of your respect and bashing them diminishes your sense of professionalism. Don’t forget, your customer may have used/selected them in the past or might even know someone who works there. When it comes to talking about competitors, taking the high road is always the best call
3. Phrase the narrative in the voice of your customers (and industry experts)
When responding to competitive threats, it’s important to speak with authenticity and credibility. But as I talk about in Chapter 6 of my book (Page 176: How to Architect Your Discovery Conversations for Maximum Success), if you are new to sales, new to your company, young, or otherwise less experienced, chances are you have little personal credibility with your customers. That’s why saying things like “What I’ve found is… ” or “I think…” carry little weight (I call this the “I-phrasing” trap). Unless you’re Oprah or Bill Gates, no one cares what YOU think!
On the other hand, your customers and the collective experience of your organization carry much more weight and credibility. This means, when responding to competitive questions, it’s much more powerful to invoke that credibility in your talk track.
- “Well, customers that evaluated both solutions and ultimately chose us said it was because…”
- “There have been a number of customers who recently made the switch from them to us and what they told us was…”
- “If you look at the reviews of both products on third-party sites like G2 and TrustRadius, one of the trends you’ll notice is…”
- “Gartner just released their latest magic quadrant report for our space and what they called out was…”
Helpful video: How to speak with credibility when you have none
4. Use it as a qualification opportunity
The truth is, your solution won’t be a good fit for every customer and it’s perfectly reasonable (and helpful for both parties) to use a competitive question as an opportunity to further qualify the deal. In these instances you can highlight very good reasons why a customer might choose one solution over the other and put the question back to the customer.
For example, when faced with a competitive question about price you might respond by saying, “If you look at both us and Competitor X you’ll find we’re more expensive but that’s because they’re focused on serving the needs of smaller customers with a more limited feature set. At first glance, that makes their solution quicker to implement with less maintenance. On the flip side, our solution is definitely more comprehensive which means it’s ideal for smaller customers who plan to grow quickly and know they’re going to need a more sophisticated solution. In fact, the type of fast-growing customers who evaluated both solutions and ended up choosing us tell us they’re ultimately happier because they avoided the pain and cost of switching platforms. Of course, we know that approach isn’t for everyone. Curious…how fast were you planning on growing?”
Helpful video: Customer on the fence about your solution? Here’s how to test them.
5. Be honest
Competitive conversations are ideal places to build all-important trust and credibility with your customer. So if you genuinely feel the customer would be better off going with a different solution or provider, don’t be afraid to tell them! After all, that may not be the last time you deal with that customer (either at your current company or a future one) and their memory of how you treated them will long transcend a single sales opportunity. Not to mention, selling your solution to bad-fit customers will ultimately have a negative impact on your organization’s reputation, handcuff your customer support team, and even lead your product roadmap in the wrong direction!
Competitive questions are a fact of life in the world of modern selling. But by being mindful of how you respond to them, they represent tremendous opportunities to qualify your customers, deepen your knowledge of the market, and elevate your personal and professional brand.
Bonus video: How to talk about your competition!
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