“The wise learn many things from their enemies.” — Aristophanes

As I speak to companies in all types of industries, I am surprised to discover that some know very little about their competition and how to best position themselves against them. You may think you offer the best product/service, but it only matters if the prospect sees value in your products or services versus the alternatives.

Do you know the following?

  • Who are your top competitors?
  • Do they see you as competition?
  • How do they position themselves against you?
  • What are your top three differentiators versus each competitor?
  • Do you have any value-based stories to reference versus each competitor?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help your inside and outside sales teams better compete. This information will also have an impact on your product development direction. Sometimes, companies make critical decisions based solely on assumptions their people make. Think about the impact these decisions might have if you had access to real data to help drive product direction and focus resources on what is critical at the time.

Following are key strategies to help you get a better handle on competitor data:

  1. Know your top competitors. Identify and verify your competitors in the market. Once identified, rank them in order to classify which need to be researched first. Continually identify competitors in opportunities to get the latest data on up and comers. Leverage your sales force automation to track competitors on all opportunities.
  2. Leverage your internal knowledge. I am always surprised by how many companies simply don’t leverage their greatest asset – their sales team. Your sales team is in the marketplace, competing daily and comprise a great source of real time data. And, they usually know the best differentiator against top competitors.
  3. Leverage your biggest fans (your best customers). Another great source of data is your customer base. Not only have they met your competitors, they have chosen you over others and have a vested interest in your success. Initiate a win-loss interviewing process with your customers. Focus on creating value-based stories by industry or market segment, and in your interview process, ask about the competition and why they’ve chosen you over the alternatives.
  4. Leverage outside consulting firms that focus on competitive analysis and research. These firms take a third-party view based on your criteria to analyze your competitor’s positioning and product mix. They can help you identify the key differentiators they feel best position you over your competition. I sometimes see product marketing hiring these types of firms, but I believe these firms can help sales and executive staff members uncover the key data needed in order to make critical decisions.

The bottom line is that knowledge is power. The more we know about the market – our competitors and their messaging – the better we can position ourselves and make sound product direction decisions. Too often, we take a short-term view of winning the deal in front of us instead of playing the longer game of leveraging each interaction to learn and develop winning strategies. This is especially critical if you sell some form of renewal model – the knowledge of what made us successful will allow you to not only secure the renewal, but also maintain that price premium.

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Carlos Nouche
Carlos has 25 years of experience in the enterprise software industry, including sales, service, business development, creation of partner alliances and business operations. He’s advised companies including Telus, TheLadders, Interwoven, Avaya, VMware, and Stericycle.
Carlos Nouche

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