Sales Enablement

How to Sell Software Against the Competition

Larson Stair

It's no secret that the software industry is getting more competitive and crowded. There are thousands of solutions out there and knowing how to sell against each one can be quite challenging. It's more essential than ever that you need to be aware of your competition and know how to beat them. In this blog post, we will discuss some tips on how to sell your software strategically against the competition.

To kick things off, let's talk first about how the competition gets brought up. Great sales reps don't shy away from the competition, they steer the ship towards it and try to uncover other vendors early and often. If you're looking to uncover the vendors being evaluated, you could try a more casual statement like, "so who else are you looking in to that could help solve this problem?". Or prospects will frequently bring up competitors and say "how do you differ from X?"

This is a massive opportunity and one where we see reps miss frequently. The process for competitive selling ultimately breaks down to a few key steps:

1. But first, discovery

Most reps we observe do this first part wrong. Their instinct is to immediately talk through differentiators between their product and the competition. Oftentimes, it can be accompanied by some unfriendly language (see step 2) that can be offputting to your prospects. Your first step when a prospect brings up a competitor and asks for differentiators should be discovery. You could use a statement like, "oh yes, I'm very familiar with XYZ competitor and would be happy to talk through some differentiators. What prompted you to take a look at them? What did you like/dislike?". This information can give you some critical information as to how your prospect views that competition and could give insight into how to sell against them. Don't forget this part.

Here are a few suggestions for questions you can ask before talking through differentiators: 

  • What prompted you to take a look at them?
  • What did you like/dislike?
  • Did you learn anything new about the vendors in the space the product offerings?
  • Has anything about your criteria changed after looking at them?
  • What did you team think? How about your leadership counterparts?

2. Don't talk trash

Once you have done your discovery, it's time for you to speak on pros/cons against that competitor. Remember, regardless of how you feel about that company, don't talk trash. There are more strategic ways to articulate why that solution won't be a good fit for your prospect, and that is ultimately your goal. A well-thought-out reason as to why they won't fit that prospect's needs.

3. Compliment, reframe, and articulate your benefits

Now it's your time to speak about the competitor. I follow a three-step sequence when I need to talk through a competitor. I start by say "Oh XYZ is a great solution. It's primarily built for (not their business), and I've heard that it does very well with (not their use case). Where we primarily excel is with businesses just like yours trying to solve your use-case." Reframing the competitor as a solution that's perfect for other businesses with different use cases makes you feel more like a trusted advisor (assuming this is all true). You can gain an understanding of some of these strengths/weaknesses by searching through a company's website, G2 crowd reviews, product videos, etc. We'll also frequently ask prospects what they thought of that solution. After you reframe the competitor and articulate the alignment you see with that prospect, it's time to ask thoughtful "trap setting question".

Indeed talks about the "Clinger Strategy" when you're doing Discovery with a customer and how to best pitch against the competition.

By 'clinging' to this one significant issue that customers value, it can help to distinguish your business from your competitors and reinforce a customer's decision to choose your products or services over others. This one specific issue can help to give you a competitive advantage, which may allow you to devote more time to meet their other needs.

4. Trap Setting Questions

This part is what separates the good sales reps from those that have mastered their craft. A trap setting question is a question to a prospect that asks them about decision criteria they might have that would intentionally work against that competitor. For example, "you mentioned that ease of use was incredibly important to you, how important is XYZ integration to that ease of use?". You could lead a prospect down that path knowing full well that the competition doesn't have that integration. You could continue to ask questions around the impact of that integration and solidify its importance in their decision-making process.

Force Management wrote a great article on "How to Ask Trap-Setting Questions".

At the end of a good round of trap-setting questions, customers should walk away believing that your line of questioning got them thinking about areas of value that they hadn’t yet fully comprehended. Trap-setting questions draw the pivotal link between the value that customers want and the differentiators that your solutions provide.

Those that have mastered competitive selling seemingly breeze through this process with ease. They make it look effortless and natural. With enough practice and preparation, you can become just as good at competitive selling. These are just a few tips and tricks we use to help our clients win more against the competition. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it's a great start. If you're looking for more help in this area or have questions, please reach out! We're always happy to chat!


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