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3 Rules B2B Sales Reps Should Follow When Discussing Competitors with Prospects

3 min readAugust 28, 2014

As salespeople, we all want opportunities with zero competitors. But today’s buyers are savvier than ever, and often research the landscape prior to making a buying decision. As such, all salespeople should be prepared to go head-to-head with the competition. I’ve found that the best sales reps aren’t deterred by a prospect mentioning the competition. In fact, with the right tactics, you can use a prospect’s mention of the competition to your advantage.

Here are three simple rules that sales reps should follow to win deals away from any competitor.

Rule 1: Avoid Trash-Talking Competitors

The moment a prospect mentions a competitor, there’s always an urge to launch into a diatribe about how much that competitor “sucks.” After all, you probably know every way that your offerings outperform all of your competitors. I don’t know about you, but when I mention a competitor to a salesperson and they start immediately trash-talking that competitor, they come off as overly defensive. Whenever I’m selling anything, the moment a prospect mentions a competitor, the first thing I say is, “I’m so glad you’re familiar with the landscape.” I then begin making a case for why my company’s offering is just more suitable for solving my prospect’s pain points.

One way to get around trash talking is to let negative comments come from your customers. If you have customers who had issues with a particular competitor, it’s perfectly fine to mention this to your prospects. In fact, it can be extremely powerful since it demonstrates social proof that other people chose you over a competitor. Think about the times that you won business away from a particular competitor. Then, you can say things like, “Our customers tell us that particular feature of  product didn’t quite live up to expectations, and that’s why they signed on with us.”

Rule 2: Play to Your Strengths

No matter how big or small your company is, there should always be a reason that your customer would go with you over a competitor (if not, it’s time to look into switching companies). Maybe you have a better price point, maybe you have a legendary reputation for great customer service, or perhaps you have the best set of features. Focus on the things that make your company great.

If you’re going up against competitors that are more established, focus on ways that you’re innovating in or disrupting your industry. For example, when salesforce.com came on the scene, Siebel Systems was the leader in the CRM space and controlled 45% of the market share. While Siebel certainly helped pave the way for CRM technology, salesforce.com’s cloud-based model was a true game-changer. Reps selling Salesforce focused on the company’s innovations. And today, Salesforce is the world’s leading CRM vendor. Even if your company isn’t the biggest in your space, you can win market share from larger competitors by helping customers to see your company’s overarching vision.

Rule 3: Discover Your Prospect’s Business Drivers

In order to beat any competitor, it’s absolutely essential to find out your prospect’s business drivers. Are they looking to improve productivity? Shorten sales cycles? Do a better job of reporting? Once you understand what those business drivers are, you can begin discerning the ways that your company can better support those business drivers. Then, you can lead your prospects to the epiphany that your offering is superior by asking targeted questions. For example, if I worked for salesforce.com back in the early 2000s, I would have asked my prospects, “Do you feel that being able to access your sales data from anywhere without software could make your team more productive?” Asking this question would help prospective customers to focus on Salesforce’s key differentiators. Sell prospects on your unique value and how it can support their business drivers, and watch the competition melt away.