On this Q&A episode: "What do you do when your competitor flat out lies? I'm not talking about a rogue salesperson making up fibs. I mean when their company market materials contain figures that are significantly inflated or entirely fabricated?"
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*** Enhanced Video Script ***
Anyone who has been in sales for a while has probably run across something from the competition that may look misleading or, as the question states, flat out incorrect or erroneous. And it's very difficult to sell against because the customer doesn't necessarily know the difference.
But there are 5 things that you can do to continue to differentiate yourself and get past that false claim.
#1 Never Badmouth the Competition
The first idea is to never badmouth the competition.
Talking bad about your competition doesn’t paint you in the best light, it doesn’t really help your situation, and by trying to say that they're misleading or lying, you may look like you're trying to cast doubt on them or disparage them. So you don't want to start out by badmouthing the competition.
It does help to know what’s the competition is offering. I would suggest, first, do a quick competitive analysis. Look at the strengths and weaknesses compared to the competitor that you're hearing about. There's lots of information available from third parties, from their website, or from other available online sources that might tell you a lot about where they're strong and where they're weak. Then compare them to your own offerings understanding where you're strong and where you may have some weaknesses that you need to overcome.
#2 Play to Your Strengths
Once you do that, you’ll be able to play to your strengths, highlight those areas where you’re differentiated, and get in front of any areas where you may have a weaker solution. You want to reframe the conversation if you know that there's an area that you need to tread lightly or maybe the competition actually is stronger.
For example, if one of the things you're hearing is that your solution is much more expensive than the competition, try to reframe that conversation around total cost of ownership. In other words, sure, maybe your solution is a little bit more expensive to purchase today, but over the course of three to five years, when you factor in training, and support, and warranty, and all the other factors that come into play, your solution may become a much better option for the business than just a lower up-front cost.
#3 Address Issues with Proof
The third component is to pre-emptively address any issues that you think may come up or that maybe they've misled the customer about by providing proof. If you know that there's a misleading fact or statement made, if you can bring a case study or research, or a third-party report, that's really going to help your case and potentially dissuade any concerns about those false accusations.
Third-party sources are great because they carry additional legitimacy, so if you can bring in a customer testimonial, maybe a third-party research report, or a white paper, that can go a long way to really address and nullify any of those concerns that may have come up from a false claim.
#4 Develop Win Themes
The fourth area is to develop the win themes that you know you’re stronger and sell to them.
Put those in terms of what the customer cares about, what they've shared with you because you've done your discovery. You've asked questions, you really understand their needs, and you're going to continue to reinforce those win themes in your presentations, in your emails, and in your conversations. Every time you talk about them, you're going to come back to what they said was important and why you're the best fit, regardless of what the competition is saying.
In fact, you don't even want to give too much credit on what the competition is saying or care too much about it. You want to go back to where you're strong and why you're the best fit.
#5 Take the High Road
The final component is to take the high road. Going back to the first point, you don't want to badmouth the competition, you don't want to get into “he said, or she said,” or your report versus their report. What you want to do is really take the high road and say, "You know, I understand you have different options.” “There are other solutions available. Here's why I think we're a great fit, why we're a good long-term partner, and why we're the best solution for the situation you presented.”
Sell them on your values, your integrity and then your company’s fit with their business. By doing that, I think you can rise above any false claims, accusations, or lies the competition may be making and really differentiate yourself, your company, and your solution in front of the customer.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.