Talk About Competitors — But Careful What You Say

Talking about ‘The Competition’ is a little like walking a tightrope at height. You have to tread carefully if you want to get to the other side of a signed deal. But one bad move and you could fall off, never to recover.

In sales, talking to your prospect about other companies is a true balancing act – ignore them at your peril. But b*tch about them and you’ll likely fall to the ground.

We had some experience of the latter in UrbanVolt when a prospect told us what another company had said about our Light as a Service (LaaS®).

“They (insert company name) said their product is the Rolls Royce. And that yours is the horse and cart,” the prospect told us just before they signed up for our LaaS®.

The Competition’s attempt at destroying our reputation had the opposite effect and destroyed theirs.

Mistruths aside, The Competition knocked themselves off the tightrope by breaking the cardinal rule of sales – don’t b*tch about other companies unless you want to ruin your credibility.

The second rule? Don’t ignore them either.

Data shows that if other companies are discussed early in the sales process, the deal is 49% more likely to close than if you’d never spoken about them at all.

So why is this? Well, because you are hopefully dealing with an educated client who is looking to make a purchase one way or another.

And any smart client is going to talk to different companies to understand the market and be confident that they’re making the best decision for their business.

If they’re talking to you they’re going to buy from someone – the only question is, from whom?

So talk about the others because that will help you win the competitive war early on, while the potential client is still educating themselves and forming opinions.

Interestingly, the data shows that the opposite effect occurs if the competition comes up in the middle or end of the sales cycle – the odds of closing go down.

So here are some questions you should ask of a potential client when you bring up The Competition early on in the sales cycle.

1: How many other companies are you talking to?

If the answer is none, then the prospect is either beginning their search for a new product or service, or they are just seeking a price. If it is the latter, they are unlikely to be making a decision to purchase any time soon.

2. What are your priorities for this project or purchase?

Not every company offers the same thing so perhaps you have a unique selling point (USP) which would deliver the prospects priorities. If you focus on highlighting the USP you could nudge the prospect closer to signing up with you.

3: Is there anything about the offering from another company which you like?

If it turns out you offer the same as something which a prospect has focused on but haven’t yet mentioned it, this will give you the opportunity to remind the prospect that you too offer what the others have offered.

4: What concerns do you have about purchasing this product or service?

The response to this question is important – but not because it gives you an opportunity to stick the knife in. The answer to this question means you can allay the prospects concerns about your product or service. If something about an offer bothers them, then it’s obviously important to them and you need to address it head on.

5: Have you talked to the clients of other companies?

Sales people always talk themselves and their company up, so prospects will take what you say with a pinch of salt. So let your existing clients do the selling for you. If they have not yet talked to someone who has already purchased your product or service, now is your opportunity to seal the deal.

So the next time you’re in a meeting with a prospect and The Competition comes up, don’t ignore them. Nor b*tch about them. Embrace them as part of the sales process and use them as a tool to help you sign up a new client.

Sarah Berney