Discussing the Sales Competition? Here's How to Keep It Professional

BY Jessica Helinski
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Often, sellers are so focused on winning business that they don’t give thought to how they are handling their sales competition. But how salespeople speak of, and treat, competitors can impact their reputation, as well as how a prospect views them.

How do you treat the sales competition?

The discipline to deal with the competition in a professional manner is one of the hallmarks of the best salespeople,” writes sales professional and author Dale Kahle. “Every salesperson should think through and decide on an approach that best fits them.”

And buyers notice your treatment of the competition. SalesFuel’s Voice of the Buyer found over a quarter of buyers say a seller badmouthing competitors is an instant deal-breaker. 

There will always be other sellers who are vying for the same business. And they can make things tough for you, no doubt. You may find yourself facing other vendors who have more attractive pricing or more experience. Or they may even currently have your prospect’s business. 

While you can’t ever rid yourself of competitors, you can control your attitude and behavior toward them. “Disparaging the competition, speaking badly about the company or the individual salespeople, using little innuendos and side comments— all of this says more about us to our customers than it does about the competitors to whom we are referring,” Kahle explains.

It is possible to express that you are the better choice while still being respectful. If you’ve never considered how you speak about fellow vendors, Kahle offers advice.

Keep your mind focused on the prospect

Remember that the customer should be your focus over the other sales competition. Your prospects will notice if you fixate on other sellers. Plus, the more attention paid to the prospect and their business, the more you will learn about them. And the more you know, the more you will be able to demonstrate the value of your solution. Don’t get distracted worrying about others but instead, maintain a customer-​first mindset . As Kahle reminds sellers, “Your mindset, from the beginning, is not a bit focused on the competition, but rather is 100% targeted to completely understanding the customer’s requirements. The conversation is not about how you compare to the competition, but rather how you meet the customer’s needs.

Speak as general as possible about competitors

Inevitably, you will want to express how you’re a better fit than the rest. Instead of calling out specific companies by name, use generic terms, such as “other companies,” or refer to “larger” or “smaller” vendors to make a comparison. You are differentiating yourself from the rest of the sales competition without disparaging them. 

Ask questions and avoid criticism

Instead of throwing out critiques of other sellers, nudge the buyer to question the other sellers themselves. Kahle explains, “It is far more effective to put questions in the customer’s mind that [they] should ask about the competition, than it is for you to make statements about the competition.”

Again, instead of specifically criticizing others, lead the prospect to question their value and fit. Suggest questions that the prospect should be asking of their sellers. For example, as Kahle suggests, you can say something like, “One of the questions you should ask of every vendor is: ‘What technology and systems do you have in place to assure that you will be able to support us for the long run?’"

Use tables and charts 

If you feel like you do need to be a bit more specific regarding the sales competition, especially a current vendor, consider visual comparisons. Share a table or chart that lists comparisons between your solution and others’ offerings. This is a tactic to clearly present differences while still being respectful. To avoid coming across as overly biased, Kahle recommends having a third party or even someone else from your company prepare the visuals. 

These tips are subtle ways that ensure you treat competitors with professionalism and respect.  While they still allow you to demonstrate that you are the best choice, you do so in a way that isn’t disparaging or disrespectful.

Photo by Tiger Lily