When You Catch Your Competitors Lying

When You Catch Your Competitors Lying:

from The Sales Challenger™ 
Pauli 5.29I don’t know what it is about the month of May, but it must be lying season. Over the last three weeks, I’ve been surprised at the number of meetings I’ve been running where sales leaders and reps have noticed some less than honorable sales tactics by their competition. This came in many forms – competitors falsely saying they can match the capabilities of the supplier, competitors grossly over-stating their own capabilities, or – perhaps the worst of all – competitors blatantly lying or completely misrepresenting supplier data, statements, or capabilities.
So what do you do when your competition is lying?  As I reflected upon these many conversations with different sales teams, they all separately came to very similar conclusions:

  1. Take the High Road – If your competition has to resort to twisting your words and misrepresenting your capabilities to get the customer’s attention, that’s a sure sign that you’re doing something right.  The worst possible response is to engage in a tit-for-tat battle over capabilities.  It’s like putting a mutual friend in the middle of a bad break up – it’s just not a place anyone wants to be.   Even worse, the minute we start badmouthing the competitor is the minute we begin to associate ourselves with them and their unethical behavior.  And if we’re being honest with ourselves, how well can we even really speak to the competitor’s capabilities?  It’s not like we work there or use their products/services.  Which leads me to my next point…
  2. Focus Instead on Your Strengths – At CEB, we’ve been talking about the need to really understand your unique differentiators for many years now.  Above all else, we have to be able to answer this question – “Why should our customers buy from us over everyone else?”  We have to be crystal clear on that answer.  Even more, we have to be able to tell customers they can’t afford to not value these capabilities, and we need to give them a very compelling reason why. But once we understand our unique strengths and capabilities, the last thing we want to do is talk about them – which leads me to my next point…
  3. Change the Conversation to your Experience – When we talk about our strengths, it can’t be about ‘us’ versus ‘them’.  It’s not a focus on capabilities or features and benefits.  It’s still a focus on the customer and the outcomes that they want to achieve. I heard sales reps tell stories about how instead of taking the bait and talking about the competition, they instead talked about how they’ve partnered with dozens or even hundreds of companies to implement this solution.   They talked about key obstacles that other customers failed to anticipate, or issues that led to costly setbacks or even failures during implementation.  They talked about learning the hard way.
    It’s incredibly powerful to look someone in the eye and tell them that the competition is certainly a viable option.  But then show them what they’re missing, and get them to value outcomes that only we can deliver.
  4. Watch the Competition Fail, and Wait for the Customer to Come Back – Now that title is a bit dramatic, but it captures the essence of several stories I heard from sales reps.  Many stood up and bravely shared stories of losing customers despite doing all three of the previous items on this list well.  Although these stories started with customers leaving based on the lies of the competition, many ended with customers crawling back weeks or months later when they realized the grass wasn’t greener on the other side of the fence.
That’s NOT to say that you would ever suggest to your customer that they give the competition a try or let them walk away without a fight, but rather an acknowledgement that no matter how hard you try, sometimes the customer is lured away.   Sometimes you do things the right way and the customer still goes with the competitor.  But I was struck by how many stories reps told me of customers coming back with their tail between their legs when they realized the competitors weren’t being entirely truthful.  It’s a costly mistake, but sometimes the only way to really learn is to learn the hard way.
These were the ideas I heard, do you have any tips that have worked especially well for you?

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