4 Ways to Prepare for Sales Competition

Sales professionals that follow these four steps are better positioned to overcome the competition.

May 25, 2017

  • Boy Crossing Finish Line in Homemade Racecar

Earlier this year, we summed up findings from research by Gong.io and Startup Sales Bootcamp based on their analysis of over 70,000 B2B SaaS sales calls. One a-ha moment was what happens when prospects mention competitors. While the thought of the competition making their way into your conversations may make you cringe, you know it’s inevitable. And it turns out you’re far better off when competitors are discussed earlier in the buying process. As the graph below shows, the likelihood of opportunities moving forward is greater when competitors are mentioned in the early stages.

  • competitor-mentions

And that makes perfect sense – if you let prospects keep alternatives in mind until late in their research and decision-making process, then those rivals likely made the shortlist. On the other hand, you can short-circuit their existence by strategically positioning against them early on. In other words, the worst strategy for dealing with other options is hoping your prospect doesn’t bring them up.

Alternatively, the best sales pros prepare for these conversations. They embrace the opportunity to tactfully differentiate themselves from the competition early in the buyer’s journey.

Here are four ways you can prepare for the competition, and tip the odds in your favor.

Study Up

The first step is to understand the competitors you are likely to be pitted against – to know more about them than they know about you. If your organization conducts win/loss analyses, sink your teeth into any insights surfaced about competitors. You can also use LinkedIn and other social media channels to research the competition. Study what your rivals are saying in published pieces and in discussions online, and what others are saying about them in those same venues.

Put yourself in a prospect’s shoes to zero in on all the details that matter to them: price, features, benefits, implementation time frames, customer support, warranties, offers, and any other pertinent information. It’s important to be brutally honest and acknowledge in what ways the competition bests you. Then find ways to overcome any disadvantages.

Call Upon Customer Advocates

If you know the prospect is already using a competitor’s solution, let your customers do the talking. Search your network for existing customers who switched from that solution to yours. Ideally some of these customers are willing to serve as advocates because they are thrilled with you as a sales rep, and with your company and solution. Once you’re in discussion with the prospective buyer, offer to connect them with one of your existing customers who can make a compelling case for switching.  

Help Your Prospects Make a Strong Business Case

Remember why prospects consider your competition: they want to make the best decision for their companies, and they don’t want to leave options unexplored. When the competition comes up in conversation, rise above features and price. There will be plenty of time for that later. Instead, keep the focus on the business problem at hand. Demonstrate your understanding of the buyer’s initiative and determine what’s currently preventing the buying committee from becoming aligned on a solution.

Tackle change management issues head on and offer suggestions for overcoming resistance. Positioning yourself as the credible third party who prescribes a proven buying process can help buyers see you as the most credible, experienced salesperson in the bunch.

Address Your Stiffest Competition Head-On

In most cases, your top competition is no change, meaning it’s the solution that’s already in place at your prospect’s organization. To get them to consider your solution instead, you need to make a case for urgency while presenting your solution as a low-risk alternative (e.g., not one to disrupt the business, be hard to adopt, or cost the company more in any way).

It’s essential that you paint a convincing picture of why a change is necessary so the organization does not continue losing out in some way (e.g., on new opportunities, productivity gains, revenues, etc.) and instead reaps the benefits of change. As mentioned earlier, guide the buyer through the purchase process to alleviate any perceived concerns about the challenges of going this route. And once again pair prospects with existing customers who abandoned the status quo for your solution and are seeing significant benefits as a result. 

Rather than cringe upon hearing about the competition, embrace it – the data says it’s a good thing. By following the above suggestions, future competitor mentions can be your springboard for success.  

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