“Hi Bob, have you tried “natural” male enhancement? I saw the commercial on TV last night and immediately thought of you”
“Wow Barbara, that dress looks great. Did you get it in the “big girls” section at Lane Bryant?”
“So the wife and I just joined a swingers club……”
I would hope the readers of this blog would agree that these are lines that would exude a certain level of awkwardness and discomfort if they appeared in casual conversation.
However, as sales professionals we can generate similar feelings of discomfort with our prospects if we start to trash our competition.
I hate to burst your bubble, but you remember that great conversation you had where you felt like you and the prospect really “connected” and you shared how your competitor’s solution has been linked to Herpes Simplex 10?
Well here’s a news flash, your competitor had that same “connecting” conversation and when the subject of your company came up, he responded this with this:
“You are looking at ACME? You know they do very well in Java shops and I’ve seen some good press on them. However, knowing your internal infrastructure, project requirements, and with the fact that your CEO is sponsoring this project, I am confident that our solution, along with the reputation of our company, will not only surpass your technical needs, but offer a degree of comfort and validation that you are doing business with the industry leader.”
See the difference? Herpes vs. Industry Leader?
You should always feel comfortable asking your prospects which of your competitors they are evaluating. If they respond with “Oh, you are the only vendor we are evaluating” you should start panicking because there is no way a serious purchase is going to be made without multiple providers being evaluated, unless, of course, you are Halliburton and you are selling into a Republican administration.
If you prospect is hesitant to give you the names of the others, calm their concerns by saying “The reason I am asking is that there are a good many vendors who do what we do, in their own unique way, some provide simple, cost-effective solutions while others provider enterprise-grade, robust systems. If you are looking at vendors with whom I don’t normally compete, then I will know that one of us should not be taking up your time.”
If they still refuse, let it go.
If they ask your opinion about a competitor, start with a complement and then work in how you are different. See example above. If you have a good nugget of knowledge, like you replaced another vendor, save that until you get further into the evaluation. You want to knock a vendor out when you are one of three, not when you are one of ten.
If you want an interesting exercise, call some prospects who went with the other guy and ask them “What do you enjoy about the system you picked?” If you stay friendly, and polite, they will sometimes start slipping in the things they don’t like about your competitor as well.