Use Your Customer's Competitor to Make the Sale

Last Updated Oct 28, 2011 5:51 PM EDT

When it comes to making an easy sale, your customer's competition is your natural ally. This post explains exactly how to play this essential (but somewhat tricky) card.

A sales machine reader recently sent me the following email:

I am about to call a prospect who has shown some interest in our product, but is slow making a decision. I recently saw a big billboard from my prospect's competitor promoting their actions in the area that our offering addresses. Is it okay to talk to the prospect about this in order to put some pressure on them? I'd like to say to them: "Look at your competition, they are overtaking you and if you don't act fast, you'll fall behind!" I would really appreciate your thoughts on the situation.
First of all, congratulations! While you're new to sales, you quickly understood that the actions of prospect's competitor can be used to your advantage. However, I do NOT advise that you barge right in and "put pressure" on them. Instead, you need some finesse.
  • Step #1: Research the Competitive Situation. Dig around on the Internet, make some calls, do some competitive analysis. Find out EXACTLY what the competitor did, what product they used, and what impact they expect to get.
  • Step #2: Research your Prospect's Situation. Gather together everything you've learned about your prospects, their needs in your area of expertise, and the potential financial impact of buying your product versus not buying anything.
  • Step #3: Create a Competitive Analysis. Create a document describing, in financial terms, the threat that the prospect's competition poses to the prospect, now that they have what your prospect lacks. Do NOT try to sell your product in this document.
  • Step #4: Create a Quid Pro Quo. Send a scanned photograph of the billboard to your prospect contact. Say that you've prepared an analysis of their competitor's actions, and you'll be happy to give them a copy, providing they'll let you present your findings to decision-makers.
  • Step #5: Create a presentation. Assuming they agree, create a presentation that describes the results of your research and segues into discussion why your offering will do a better job for the prospect than whatever their competitor is using.
That's the basic approach. As an aside, whenever you talk with your prospect, try to find out more about their buying process. A "slow" buying process is usually a sign that you don't know what they're doing and when, so you don't know when and where your presence (or absence) will speed the process along.

READERS: Any more suggestions?

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NOTE: Similar tips and techniques are contained in my soon-to-be-published book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling, now available for pre-sale here.
    All pre-sale royalties are donated to Wide Horizons for Children, an organization that facilitates foreign adoptions and orphanages.