Women in Sales Blog

How to Be a Smart and Better Educated Sales Rep in Competitive Selling

Posted by Dec 4, 2015 12:43:26 PM Ali Powell


We all have competition. What we do with our competition and how we react to our competitors is important. It shows your true colors as a company and as a person. 

As a sales rep in a competitive market and industry you should have core pillars that your sales team uses on how your team as a whole reacts and responds to competitive sales situations. 

In sales the winners are the ones who help their prospects. The winners are those who whole-heartedly, honestly want to help their prospects. Good sales reps don't lie. They don't make things up about what their competitors do. They don't disparage competitors to prospects. They learn from the market and use that first hand knowledge to educate their prospects on the competition. 1. Never talk poorly about a competitor of yours to a prospect. 

It is not worth it. It shows the prospect that you are not focused on the right things.  Frankly, I think speaking poorly about a competitor is just plain old gross, bad selling. It is not attractive and makes you look bad. Do you want to be that kind of sales rep? Do you want that to be a stigma your sales team has when a prospect hears your company name? I doubt it. 

The prospect doesn't want to sit there and listen to how much you hate X company. The prospect would like to hear your honest opinions and true thoughts of what you see the differences in your products being. It is okay to talk about these things but make sure you do it in a factual way. Never say things that you don't really know are 100 percent true. 

Ways that I do this...

  • "Great questions, have you read over some of our case studies that include people who used to use Competitor X?"
  • "Do you think maybe reading our reviews on sites like G2Crowd and TrustRadius would be helpful for  comparison?"
"Maybe you could actually talk to my customer who I brought on who moved from X competitor to us. Then you could have a real conversation about what they think the differences are." 2. If a prospect really wants to understand real differences and you actually understand those differences well you should feel talk about it with them. 

Don't talk about the differences in a bad way. Speak honestly about what you know. Tell the prospect how you know these things and why you think they should know these things.

Acknowledge that both products have good use cases. Both companies have great customers and you have nothing against that company.

I always tell my customers that I think of myself as a doctor of marketing (I sell marketing software). If at any time I don't think we are a fit, I tell them this from the first  conversation that I have with them. If at any point in time, from what I learn, if I think they are a better fit for X competitor I will tell them that and tell them why. Explain to the prospect that your job is to help companies who are well qualified become a customer. Explain to the prospect that you are looking to sign up happy customers. You do your best to diagnose and find companies that from the sales process will be very, very, very happy customers. I personally don't want kind of happy customers. I strongly want and seek customers that will be VERY happy. If at any time you don't feel that way you should tell the prospect why.

 As a sales rep you should be knowledgeable of your main competitors that you hear about daily on the job. If you don't know the differences between your products from a broad level as well as more in depth then you should teach yourself. 

Here are some ways to teach yourself about your competitor (these have worked well for me):

  • When a prospect of yours does have your competitor now (meaning in the sales process) ask them questions about it. Try to learn as much about how they use it, what they do in the tools, ask lots of questions about their overall processes in the software. 
  • If you have a way to get into a demo account of your competitor or know someone who uses it that would feel comfortable showing you around, do it. That will only help you to form your own opinions of the software from 1st hand experience. 
  • Find out what they like in the software now and what they don't like. Then ask, WHY! Why is the most important thing to hone in on in competitive situations. Ask questions like: why do you want to be able to do that, what will that type of tool lead you to do or learn? Try to get to the root causes of what they are disliking in their current software so you can diagnose if your product might be a better fit for their needs and challenges now. I have no interest in bringing a company over to my software from a competitor if they are not a better fit for us. Don't try and fit square pegs into a circle. If they are in fact a better fit for your competitor after you do discovery with the prospect that is fine. Not everyone is a fit for every software and that is okay. That makes you a good sales rep to be able to know that and feel comfortable with this kind of selling. 
  • Most software companies have documentation on their site somewhere for their customer base. Use this documentation  as a way to teach yourself how your competitor does certain things. You will be more knowledge of these things when they come up on calls or in meetings. 
  • Speak from real, true experiences. If you don't have real experiences yet then you should talk to your colleagues to truly understand some true stories about competitive situations they have had. If you have had your own competitive situations use those scenarios as ways to explain the differences that you have seen first hand. Make sure you state that these are things that you have seen by selling companies who either had that competitor or moved from that competitor to your product. Make sure the prospect understands that the things you are telling them are things you have seen with your own eyes and been a part of. 

As a sales rep you should pick up on trends in the market. As you learn things in the sales process about your competitors make sure that you pick up on these trends so when someone asks you what the differences are high level between you and X you have a real answer that is based off of experience. Not based off of assumptions or what people might have told you about the competitor. 3. Be darn good at qualification of potential customers. Think about what they will be like as a customer and you should believe they will be 100 percent happy as a customer. If you don't think this, don't sell to them. 

If you are good at qualifying for your product you should naturally be able to diagnose if your product is the best fit for the prospect. If and when a company is really well qualified, the sale should come naturally. If along the way you start to think that maybe the prospect would be a better fit for a competitor, bring that up. It is okay to turn people away. If you clearly understand your best customers and the qualities of the customers who love using your product and see success with your product you should be qualifying for those things. 

Set yourself up for greater success by targeting the right kinds of people in the sales process. If you are prospecting companies that are a better fit for your competitor then this is likely a poor use of your time. Instead figure out who you think is a great fit for your product. Think about your personal book of business and what characteristics these customers have in common. Why do they like your software? Better yet, why do they love being a customer of your company? How do they see success? Look for trends in your customer base and get really, really good at selling to those companies. Don't go after companies that are not going to have those characteristics. It will just make the process harder later on as the sales process progresses. 

A world where all sales reps sold competitively in a smart and well educated way... that would be a cool world to work in.

It would be an amazing world if sales reps in competitive markets were actually friendly with their competitors. I would love a world where I actually knew the rep in my territory for my main competitors that I face. It would make all of our jobs easier. Imagine that kind of world for sales.

It would be a really nice surprise for the prospect to hear that you know each other and that you both fully understand typically when one company is a good fit for your product vs theirs. At the end of the day it is up to the customer to make their decision. But, we as sales reps don't need to make that process harder on them by bringing the process down with false competitive knowledge. It would make the process of evaluating software for our prospects a way better experience. It is hard enough exploring a software in a competitive market. Don't make it harder on our prospects. 

I pride myself on teaching myself as much as I can about my competitors so I know how to respond to things when a prospect asks me my opinions. I do not use  opinions, instead I use facts. The world of competitive selling should be more fact based vs just making things up about what you think the competitor does or does not do. Make your competitive selling fact based always

To be really, really good at selling software these days you must be technical, ethical, helpful and truly understand your competitors. 

You must be a sales rep who enjoys learning. Not just learning everything and anything about your own product but learning a lot about your competitors product. That takes effort and takes time. Are you spending enough time understanding your competitors? How do you make sure that you sell competitively in a fair and factual way? Would love to hear your thoughts on how your company's sales team does this. 

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Topics: competitive selling, smart sales process, selling software, great sales rep, smart sales rep

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