Are you losing deals due to a competitor’s feature? I talk to VPs of Sales and sales leaders every day. I’ve been in technology sales for over 25 years and it’s my passion in life. There is nothing that drives me crazier than when I hear a Sales Leader tell me one of their sales reps lost a deal due to a competitive feature that their software does not have.
It makes me want to jump out of my seat and scream: “WTF, you never lose a deal over a single feature! You were simply outsold.” And IMHO, this is an epic sales leadership/sales coaching failure. Sales leadership is fundamentally responsible for training and coaching up their sales reps on competitive positioning. No software product will ever have all the features that a customer wants.
Your job as a sales rep is to help the customer understand the value of your overall solution. And that includes differentiating your solution from the competition. Most importantly, that involves seeding and influencing the customer’s decision criteria. This is basic sales…sales 101 if you will. And yet, I constantly hear sales leaders making the lame excuse that they are losing deals over a feature. Really?
I would submit the following challenge to all technology sales leaders out there…you should never accept losing over a feature. Not ever. And you need to take ownership as the sales leader of the failure on your part to train and coach up your sales reps so they don’t ever tell you the reason that they lost a deal is over a single competitive feature that your software does not have.
Let’s start with the basics. The first thing is you should be obsessed with knowing what your top competitors’ software can and can’t do. You need to know how they are going to position against you and respond to competitive land mines that your sales reps should seed with the customer. Your sales reps should be taught never to disparage the competition because that just makes you look defensive and inferior in the customer’s eyes.
In fact, great sales reps acknowledge areas where their competitors have an advantage over you. That establishes strong credibility with smart customers. Then the great sales reps build the business case with the customer that the advantages that your overall solution has over the competition dwarfs the single feature or integration that your software does not have. In fact, the best of the best sales reps proactively seeks out those latent customer objections over a competitive feature or integration that your software does not have. And they convince the customer by giving real world examples that a single feature should not be the most important factor in their final analysis.
Here is an example of how great sales reps would do this. It’s the classic sales pivot. Bring the customer back to things that they told you were far more important in their overall solution needs that you do better than anyone else. “You are correct Mr./Ms. customer in that we do not support an integration with Slack in our platform today. In fact, this is not the first time this has been brought up by our customers. But what we’ve found in practice through our customers experience is that your users prefer using Slack as a standalone application. Because that is how they are accustomed to using Slack. In fact, we’ve heard through other customers that had Slack integration in different platforms that the Slack integration was not being used due to the user’s customary workflow experience.”
The aforementioned was the debunking the significance/value component and then you pivot to reminding the customer what they told you was most important in their decision criteria. Here is an example of how to do that: “Allow me to go back to what you told me was the most important parts of your decision criteria. Ms./Mr. Customer, didn’t we discuss the user experience as being the most important overall requirement in your decision criteria? The customer will respond and then you ask: “Has that changed or is that still the case?” The customer responds and then you get concurrence on why the user experience is the most important element of their decision criteria by asking: “And my recollection is that you shared with me that the reason the user experience was the most important element in your decision criteria was because you are rolling this platform out to your entire enterprise and need rapid adoption to ensure success, is that still correct?”
The customer responds and then you do a trial competitive positioning close by saying: “Great, because throughout your evaluation we have heard you and your team repeatedly say that our platform/solution was by far the best use experience compared to the other solutions that you are considering. Is that an accurate statement?”. The customer responds in the affirmative and your great sales rep elegantly handled an objection and outsold your competition in one fell swoop.
Good selling to all!