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Rocket Fuel -Dealing with your competition

Today’s Rocket Fuel is about the challenges of tactfully discussing your competition with your clients and prospects. I once attended a training session on this topic being delivered by a mentor of mine named Harold. In the meeting, Harold talked about a sales call that he had recently been on where his client asked for Harold's opinion on one of our most dreaded competitors. Here's what Harold said:

"I was sitting in the office of my prospect asking him about his needs when he pulled out a brochure from ABC company. As you all know, ABC company is not one of our favored competitors but, being a good salesperson, I knew that I couldn't say anything bad about them to my client. When my client asked me directly for my opinion, I politely replied, "Professional ethics and standards do not permit me to say anything negative or condescending about this company or their products. However, I can do this for you...." Harold described how he proceeded to get up out of his chair, drop the competitor's brochure on the floor, and jump up and down on it with both feet several times without saying a word. Both the client and Harold had a good laugh, and no harm was done.

This situation demonstrates how dealing with your competition can be very tricky. So, what should you do when the competition comes up in conversation with your client or prospect? First of all, don't put down the competition. When you get into a situation where you are up against competition, especially dreaded competition, there is sometimes a temptation to tell your client every bad thing that you know about this competitor. We all know that as satisfying as it might feel inside, this strategy really damages your credibility. In effect, what you are saying to the client is that they are a fool for their choice. Calling your prospect a fool rarely, more accurately, never, results in a sale. Instead, show respect for your competition. Demonstrating respect for all competitors shows a confidence in both yourself, your company, and your products or services. For example, "ABC Company is a respected competitor of ours..." This does not mean that you need to dwell on their strengths over yours, but that you are suggesting, "They are good and so are we!" Don't ask negative pointed questions. Asking pointed questions that focus on your competition's weakness is as damaging as blurting out the weaknesses directly. For example, "How do you feel about ABC Company's high fees?" Even when you ask a direct question like that, your prospect will rarely give you the answer you are looking for anyway! Instead, ask positive general questions. Start with questions that allow your prospect to tell you about those things that they really like about your competition. For example, what are some of the things that ABC Company really does well for you? Once they have had a chance to expand on their reasons for choosing your competition, you can then simply ask, "Would you be interested in hearing why our clients like dealing with us?"

Giving your prospects the opportunity to talk openly usually does two things:

  1. Once they have had a chance to tell you what they like about your competition, many times they will voluntarily tell you where your competition is falling short with them.

  2. Prospects who have had a chance to tell you about their reasons for choosing your competition are much more open-minded to hearing about what you have to offer.

And if your client or prospect is totally happy with your competition, do yourself a favor and thank them for their time, leave your card, and wish them well. As you are walking out the door, the most important thing to remember is to pat yourself on the back for taking the high road because you truly are a TOP Seller!

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