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You’re in the middle of a great meeting with your prospect and things are on the right track ... and then they ask the question you’ve been dreading: “What’s your take on your competitor?”

Yikes! Thar be monsters, booby traps, and loaded questions – but, it’s really not something to fear. This is an open invitation to paint yourself as the right solution.

Here are my go-to phrases when talking about the competition to make sure you’re coming out on top and closing the deal.

“We don’t often compete with company X.”

You’re serious about becoming a legendary sales guy, continually closing deals and crushing your quota quarter to quarter, so you know your competition like the back of your hand. You also know that there are wide range of competitors: those you come up against in every deal, the ones that don’t hold a candle to your product, and even those that could be considered complimentary solutions.

Let’s discuss what to do when you’re asked about a company that you simply don’t see as a competitor. Years ago, my team and I were going head-to-head against another software vendor for a contract. We knew our competition wasn’t the right fit.

“Frankly, we’re puzzled about what they’re offering,” we told the prospect. “They’re providing an answer to a question that no one is asking.”

Ever hear of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or the principle of elegance in systems? The simplest solution is often the best.

We offered the simplest solution. Our competitor offered software that would have required a complete reconfiguration of our prospect’s CRM system -- a substantial cost of time and money that just didn’t seem necessary. We explained our thinking in an analytical way and guided the prospect to a favorable conclusion. We were able to do this because we thoroughly understood our prospect’s needs and our competition’s limits.

Phrasing like, “we don’t often compete with company X” or “they’re not a company we often come up against in deals,” politely confirms that a competitor doesn’t have the same capabilities as you, and therefore, won’t likely be a fit for the prospect.

“Company X definitely works for some people.”

Here’s an experience that shows how to give your opinion on a top-notch competitor while simultaneously framing yourself in a flattering light.

My team and I were competing for a contract against one of the largest and most distinguished companies in the world. This was going to be a tall order.

We knew we couldn’t badmouth them without reflecting poorly on ourselves -- and there was really nothing to critique. What could we do? We had to damn them with great praise. We were quick to use phrases like “absolutely, company X works well for some people,” and “company X is a great solution for the right company.”

In certain scenarios, there are virtues of being an underdog, like we were in this situation. Great salespeople are able to recognize and take advantage of those opportunities. A smaller company like ours was more nimble, efficient, and able to think outside the box. Being such a large organization, our competitor could not move as quickly.

In this case, we knew that our prospect was on a tight timeline, so we used time as our strength while managing to avoid bashing the other company. In the end we won the contract, maintained our dignity as a company, and secured our value against an organization we were bound to come up against in future deals.

“Have you considered this about company X?”

Every salesperson knows that not all sales pitches work out as planned. Some fade away quietly and some just crash and burn. Regardless of the situation, it’s important not to fall into a downward spiral when the sale isn’t going well, which often leads to unintentionally bashing competitors.

While it may seem like a good idea at the time, you never want to be the salesperson that closes a call or meeting by saying, “you’ll be making a big mistake if go with company X.” First, it’s rare that a sales rep will know the full reasoning behind a company’s decision to go with one vendor over another. Second, you sound like a schmuck and it reflects poorly on you.

The goal should be to extend and redirect the conversation to talk about your strengths while pointing to concerns the prospect should have about picking a different vendor. Consider these options:

  • “Well, have you considered this about their company X … ?”
  • “You might not get the same attention from them ... ”

When All Else Fails ... 

Be genuine about your belief in your company and product. Saying something like, “I understand that you’re looking at company X, but I unequivocally believe that we’re the right company for you based on our 1000 happy customers” can go a long way (and set up a great opportunity to plug a customer reference).

Ultimately, to be a successful salesperson, you need to be seen as a resource and a trusted partner. Don’t degrade your value by saying something off-color about your competitors. The way to sell the biggest, best deals is by understanding each individual prospect and fitting your product into their strategic business goals. (Personal sales assistant apps that keep you focused, like Spiro, don’t hurt either.)

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t shy away from the competition conversation -- you should expect it. The key is knowing how to address your prospect’s needs in a way that aligns your solution with their business goals and ensures your competitors fall outside of it.

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Originally published Jan 26, 2016 7:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

Topics:

Competitive Sales