I’m not a big fan of paying a lot of attention to your competitors in the B2B sales process. I’ve found that time is much better spent focused on your key markets, the personas you are trying to attract and understanding their problems at a deeper level.
By obsessing about your customers and the problems they aren’t able to solve that you can, you gain the natural ability to stand out and speak their language. When you focus on your competitors, you’re more likely to commoditize yourself and drift from your customers.
That said, it is (obviously) not wise to completely ignore your competitors. Here are the five areas you want to make sure you, and all market facing employees, understand about your competitors.
- What Is Their Headpin Customer/Market Description
You should know who your competitor’s ideal customers are for a couple of reasons:
- It lets you know who they’ll invest extra effort with when you’re out prospecting and building your lead generation efforts.
- It will create some clarity into how and what they’ll most likely do next.
While many of your competitors may not have thought through their buyer personas like you have (you have, haven’t you?), you should still be able to get a pretty good feel for whom they are targeting and that should inform your actions going forward.
- What Is Their Positioning
What’s the message that they’re putting forth in the market? How are they creating value (or at least attempting to)?
For example, when I’m confronting a competitor that positions themselves as a marketing or brand development firm, I know how to quickly differentiate myself and create an advantage. I simply explain that while marketing and brand are certainly important, our focus is far more about creating leads and nurturing and managing them to create a steady flow of sales qualified leads (SQLS).
Or, if I’m up against a firm that’s focused on sales training and other bottom of funnel process, I’m able to quickly explain that while the bottom of funnel issues are certainly important, they cannot be fully addressed if a company isn’t working the top and the middle of the funnel effectively.
Companies that are right for us quickly understand how that difference applies to them and we’re able to move beyond the traditional competitive pressures that other firms face.
- Who Are They Better For Than You
I always say that I only want the prospects that I’m the best fit for. I firmly acknowledge that we’re not the right option for everyone. So I pay attention to where my competitors are better than me and make sure that I’m minimizing my efforts that would attract someone looking for those attributes.
An additional plus to this is that there are very few actions you can take early in the sales process than being able to explain clearly what makes you a fit for a prospect and what doesn’t.
- What Are Their Vulnerabilities
The flip side of that is I want to know where my competitors are weak, and what types of customers they’re not particularly good with. Back when I was a financial advisor, I knew that many of the advisors I competed with didn’t work well with engineers. Their financial management process wasn’t solid enough to stand up against theirs.
I, however, had built out a clear process that I could easily communicate, and was easily able to engage with engineers. This allowed me to penetrate specific markets far more easily than my competitors could.
- How Does Their Pricing Compare To Yours
Understanding their pricing isn’t about trying to match their price. You simply need to know where your price falls in line with the greater market. For example, if you’re priced in the lower half of your competitors and you’re trying to compete with a superiority message, you’re going to have some problems.
Additionally, if you’re priced wildly above your competitors you know that you’re going to need to spend additional time upfront building the cost of the problem, so your prospect doesn’t abandon because of something you could have prevented (or you get out of the opportunity early enough to minimize the waste of your resources).
When you wake up in the morning and you go to sleep at night, the issues your prospects and customers face should be the dominant thing on your mind. From time-to-time, however, check the market so that you can truly serve your customer as an advisor and not a peddler.