Competitor or Partner?

We spend a lot of time strategizing about how to win over our competition in a sales cycle.  We have entire departments dedicated to finding out the strengths and weaknesses of our competitors.  And we should study and understand our competition.  But not to the point where we are blinded to what our competitor can teach us in a sales cycle.

If we look at the ecosystem of a sales cycle as a whole, competitors are necessary for us to win.  In that sense, your competitor is your partner in the selling process.  For example, if we end up on a short list with a particular competitor we can learn a great deal from them.

Before we begin “setting traps” or “creating FUD” (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) about our competitor we should unbiasedly ask and answer these questions:  What about their product, company, sales team is attractive to the prospect?  What is cool about their product?  Are they providing something beyond the product or service itself?  Who in the prospects organization is their champion and why does their champion like them?

If we think of our competitor as a partner in the selling process and honestly and objectively answer these questions (and others) it will give us great insight into what the prospect is looking for.  And if we combine what we learn with what we have independently discovered about the prospect, we will have the information we need to win the business.