Why Talking About the Competition Shouldn’t Be Taboo

During our years of providing sales training and sales consulting services, we often observe that the topic of how to talk about the competition during sales presentations can be a stumbling block for many sales organizations. It often represents the proverbial elephant in the room – it’s not something you’re longing to discuss with your prospect, but if you fail to do so, run the chance of missing an opportunity to educate your customer and strengthen your own solution.

But let’s take a step back. What you shouldn’t do is pretend that your products or services are the only solution out there. In today’s hypercompetitive world, your customers are only a few mouse clicks away from sourcing other vendors who may offer similar widgets for less. During sales meetings with your prospect, it’s best to get the issue out in the open, especially if you sense doubt or indecision from the customer, or if they already indicated that they are considering other options and vendors.

Being upfront will give you a chance to demonstrate how your product or service could be the best fit for them. To do this successfully though, it’s imperative that you keep abreast of your competition, their solutions, and how you differentiate yourself from them. Ask yourself if you can answer the following questions about your top 5 competitors:

  • What attributes or products make them unique?
  • How do they position themselves in the marketplace?
  • What are their vulnerabilities?
  • How does their pricing compare to yours?
  • What is their customer and industry reputation?

If you’re able to answer these questions, you’re in a good position to help your prospect make an informed decision and help them compare the solutions to one another. You have a chance to position yourself as a trusted advisor.

To do this effectively, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  1. Do not degrade or disparage your competitors. Resist the urge to make negative comments about your customers – even if you’re being truthful. Making disparaging remarks about your competition is a turnoff and your remarks may be interpreted as spiteful and defensive. Instead, remain positive, acknowledge your prospect’s due-diligence to seek out alternate options, and reiterate how your solution aligns with their main priorities.
  2. Don’t spread falsehoods. When you’re comparing your own solution to that of your competitors, stay away from stretching the truth in order to make your own solution look better. It’s tempting to tell little white lies about your competition, but it can backfire in an instant and erase all the credibility and momentum you’ve managed to build.
  3. Anticipate the right moment to talk about the competition. As is the case with most other steps during the sales process, there’s a “too early” and a “too late” moment, and discussing alternative options with your prospect is no different. The ideal moment to have this conversation comes after you have identified your prospect’s top needs and how your solution can meet them. For example, you could address it during the Q&A session following your sales presentation.

Remember, when it comes time to address the topic of your competition as part of your efforts of strengthening your solution, you’re almost always better off addressing it with your prospect. It not only allows you to take control of the conversation and provide you with additional opportunities to link your solution with their needs, but you also establish yourself as a trustworthy source who is more than just a sales rep looking to close a deal.