Talking about your competitors can feel taboo and uncomfortable. Use these five tips to prepare to talk to your prospects about how your business is unique in a competitive market.
By David Baars, Marketing Manager at PipelineDeals
The modern buyer’s journey is fundamentally customer-driven. Buyer’s have access to more resources and information than ever before, and can focus on searching for solutions that solve their unique problems. Given this environment, it’s no surprise that many business-to-business customers are more than halfway through their buying journey by the time they actually speak with a sales rep.
How you talk about your competitors can help you win or lose trust.
Given this shift of power away from sales reps to buyers, sales teams need to focus on establishing credibility and building trust to win. Whether you’re a painting contractor selling to a local market or a software company selling internationally, credibility and trust enable salespeople to guide buyers to make the best possible decision to solve their unique problem.
One of the most common ways salespeople win or lose trust is how they talk about competitors. Talking about your competitors can feel taboo and uncomfortable. However, most businesses exist in a competitive market and knowing how to talk about the other players is critical to building trust.
Whether you’re just beginning to navigate discussions about your competitors, or you want to revamp your current strategy, here are 5 tips on how to talk about your competition.
1. Understand your competitor’s value proposition and how you’re different.
To establish credibility with a potential customer, you need to have a good grasp of your market. And that means understanding your competition’s strengths and unique value proposition. Be prepared to answer the question: what are my competitors good at?
Understanding your competitor’s value proposition is critical for several reasons. First, it establishes your expertise in the broader market, including your competitors offerings. Remember that your buyer’s didn’t start their journey speaking with you. They’ve probably done some research and may have preexisting notions you’ll need to address.
More crucially, understanding your competitor’s value propositions will help you address why your solution is the best option for the buyer. Sales reps are in a unique position to get beyond the marketing and address how your solution is uniquely suited to solve your buyer’s problem. Instead of offering broad generalizations, value is created for buyers by giving them a nuanced understanding of the differences between your offerings.
2. Don’t disparage the competition.
It may be tempting to talk trash about your competitors, but it’s almost never the right option.
Sales is a competitive business and salespeople like to win. It can be very tempting to disparage your competitors when talking with clients. However, this is nearly always the wrong strategy to take. In the best case, talking poorly about your competitors makes you look weak. In the worst case scenario, talking poorly about your competitors can drive a potential customer into their arms.
Speaking from personal experience, we’ve won business at PipelineDeals specifically because a disparaging remark from a competitor backfired. There are many reasons a comment can backfire. Potentially it gives your competitor a chance to highlight the benefit you spoke ill about (making you appear ill-informed). Potentially your comment flies in the face of personal experience. Whatever the case, while it may be possible to win business by talking poorly about your competitors, it is always wiser to win by focusing on your solution’s strengths.
3. Earn social proof and let other’s speak for you.
One of the best parts of today’s selling environment is that there is no shortage of independent analysis and reviews. If you’re in the B2B software environment, sites like G2Crowd, Capterra, and GetApp do a great job of curating reviews from real customers. If you’re a contractor, sites like Angie’s List, Houzz, and ContractorTalk help magnify your customer’s voices.
These sites all help new buyers learn how you differ from your competitors.
Getting great reviews can be tough and some of these sites can be frustrating. Any contractor who has tried to mitigate poor reviews on Yelp knows how frustrating maintaining a good reputation can be.
By focusing on driving as many positive reviews as possible, you can use these services to do a side-by-side comparison of your offering. Social proof also let’s others do the talking about your competitors. Does your competitor have an unflattering record with customers? Let one of their former customers do the dirty work here.
4. Focus on helping your prospect make better decisions.
Talking about your competitors can help your prospect make a better decision.
Building a trusted relationship with a buyer is more important than beating a competitor at any cost. This means you need to make sure that you’re helping your buyer make an educated decision. And in the end, educated buyers become long-term, happy customers.
For example, if you’re in the painting business and you charge more than all your competitors, how can you educate your customers on what makes you different from the competition? Are you more expensive because you use better paint or do you offer a price-back guarantee?
One great way to address this is with your marketing department. Work with your team to help to address common points of differentiation between you and your competitors.
5. Prepare, prepare, prepare
You’re eventually going to be asked about your competitors. It’s just a fact of business. The benefit of knowing this is that you can take time to consider what you would say about your competitors given a buyer’s particular needs.
A few best practices for following your competitors include:
- Subscribe to Google Alerts so that you’re emailed about news stories.
- Follow your competitors on LinkedIn and watch their company pages OR follow your competitors on Facebook (wherever they’re most active).
- Share knowledge and tidbits amongst your fellow salespeople in a Google Doc or have your marketing team put together some talking points.
At the end of the day, don’t be caught flat footed. Prepare for what you’re going to say about your competitors so that you can stay in control of the conversation with your customer.
What are your tips for speaking about competitors? Share in the comments below.