Want to outsell the other vendors when competing for a big opportunity? Use their social networking against them!
Most sales reps now have profiles on LinkedIn, Plaxo and other social networking sites. When you're meeting with a prospect, ask (as you always should) who else they're talking to about the opportunity. But don't just find out the names of the other vendors -- ask for the name of the rep who's actually doing the selling.
Then, when you're back at the home office, check out that rep's resume. Based upon what you find there, and what you can find on the competitor's website, figure out how that rep is likely to approach the opportunity. Pay special attention to the rep's list of contacts -- try to find connections inside the prospects accounts.
Next time you visit the prospect, position your offering so that it weakens the likely positioning of the competitive rep. Find out if the competitive rep's contacts at the prospect are stakeholders or influencers. If so, meet with them to develop your own relationship to counterbalance the competitor's edge.
BTW, there's another lesson to be learned from this: It may not be all that bright an idea to post your contact list in a public place. Remember: in sales, "who you know" is a precious asset.
READERS: Would you like me to write some more about competitive selling? I keep hearing that sales pros are encountering more competition, especially in large B2B opportunities.