How to Talk About Your Competitors With A Prospect


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When a prospect says; “You know, Christy, I have to tell you that we are also looking at XYZ Competitor as well…” what should Christy do?

Talking about competitors seems like such a straight-forward thing, and it is. But sales people often fall into one of two traps:

The 2 Traps We Fall Into When A Prospect Mentions A Competitor:

Say almost nothing.

I’ve seen salespeople say nothing (or next to nothing..something like; “Oh. Okay. I understand.”). And I’ve done this myself and I always feel stupid and like I’ve actually missed an opportunity somehow. That’s because I have missed an opportunity by avoiding the topic of discussion.

Disparage the competition.

Or, worse, salespeople see mention of a competitor as an opportunity to go after them. Christy will say; “Oh, wow, okay. That’s interesting, because they’ve been having a lot of trouble in the past year. They have been bleeding people and I hear that their service isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. ” Yikes. This is called disparaging the competition, and it’s always the wrong thing to do.

Best case, it makes you look weak and fragile. Worst case, it makes you look defensive, sleazy and immediately pushes your competitor into the leading position.

Remember the advice you kept getting in high school? “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, you don’t say anything at all!” True, for people. But I think there’s a better, richer way to talk about competitors.

Salespeople should always be prepared to talk about competitors’ strengths, not weaknesses!

It sounds crazy. I know.

But what if instead of following one of the two dead-end paths above, Christy were to say; “I totally understand the need to look at our competitors, and XYZ Company should be on that list. In fact, they are really good at these two things: a and b. Our firm, on the other hand, is really good at: c and d. If you determine in your search that you most need a and b, then XYZ is probably your best choice. If not, we believe that we will be your best choice.”

The Advantage of Mentioning Competitors’ Strengths

In taking that path (call it the “high road with the better view!”), you have done several critical things in just a few short sentences.

  1. You have gained credibility with your prospect because you’ve acknowledged your competitor’s known strengths.
  2. You have gained respect from your prospect by demonstrating knowledge of the overall market, and this makes them smarter.
  3. You have begun to position yourself as a “trusted advisor” in the decision process as opposed to someone who is totally partisan. (Always a great place to be.)

You should know a couple of strengths of each of your competitors, and be prepared to clearly state the differences between you and them, but always focusing on the strengths of the worthy competitors.

Then, as in everything else in your work, have the discipline to follow the right path.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Craig Wortmann
Craig Wortmann is the CEO and Founder of Sales Engine, a firm that helps companies build and tune their sales engine(s). He is also a renowned professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. His course, Entrepreneurial Selling, was ranked by Inc Magazine as one of the Best Courses of 2011. Craig published his book What's Your Story?: Using Stories to Ignite Performance and Be More Successful in the same year and continues to speak on the topic of using stories in the sales process.


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