How to master competitive selling in a crowded marketplace

Main illustration: Joseph Vass

The SaaS industry has exploded in recent years due to relatively low barriers to entry, readily available venture capital funding and a deeper, more conscientious understanding of problems faced by internet businesses.

With this explosion comes a proliferation in the number of competitors in every area, both direct and indirect. In today’s market, there is no such thing as a software company that doesn’t have any competitors. However, at a high level, competition is a good thing. It means that whatever problem you are solving is a problem worth solving.

Live chat also allows the consumer to evaluate more solutions at once.

Along with increased competition, many companies are getting closer than ever to their customers and prospects. The advent of modern messengers, in particular, has removed so much friction from the process of buying software. For a sales rep, live chat allows you to sell to 5 customers at once versus a single customer on a phone call or in a face-to-face meeting. Less widely acknowledged is that while you can sell to more people at once, live chat also allows the consumer to evaluate more solutions at once. As a rep, your job is both more interesting and more challenging as a result.

What is competitive selling?

Competitive selling is about improving your company’s ability to beat the competition by developing stronger, longer-term relationships with customers. The rise in the number of competitors and the increasing ease with which customers can research and compare their options means that you will have to acknowledge your rivals. But what is the best way to sell your solution over a competitor’s?

It’s important to remember that your competitors deserve respect.

While we have all experienced that deal where a prospect comes to you with their research already done and fully committed to buying and using your software, this is not the norm. A prospect almost certainly will be evaluating you alongside one or more competitors. For the customer, the sales cycle is about how they can gather all of the relevant information and make an informed decision as to their optimal solution. So as a sales rep, what do you do when you hear “How do you compare against X or Y?”

This situation is challenging because we’re pulled away from focusing on how we can solve the customer’s problem and instead tend to focus on our competition. You may try to counteract this using different evasion or offensive tactics:

  • Attack the competitor. If you focus on and emphasize their shortcomings, this will be an easy decision for the customer, right?
  • Ignore the competitor. Our job is to sell our product, we know what we do – if you want to learn about what they do, talk to them, right?
  • Feature fight with the competitor. We break down exactly what they offer and what we offer and go feature by feature pointing out what we do differently. It’s all about the product, right?

Tempting as these approaches might be, it’s important to remember that your competitors deserve respect. In a certain sense, you’re in this together. Yes, you’re fighting against each other, but together you’re also expanding the market, changing mindsets and becoming more relevant.

Competitive sales: how to close deals for your company

That being said, in sales, your goal is to close deals for your company, so here are some things to take into account when selling competitively:

1. Know the landscape

If you want to be a consultative salesperson you need to know who’s in the market, what they do and how they differ from you.

2. Comparisons are clues

If you know who your prospect is evaluating and you know the competitive landscape, you can get more insight into how the customer is thinking about solving their problems. This can give you context that you won’t get otherwise.

3. Hold your ground and don’t rely on price alone to win deals against competitors

If you discount your product to be cheaper than competitors, it suggests that your product is not as good as theirs. And if you win on price alone, as soon as there is a cheaper option, your customers will churn. Discounting is a lever to use in sales, not a crutch.

4. Speak passionately about your brand and values

Customer do not always make business decisions based solely on what would have the highest business impact. Decisions can be influenced by other factors – e.g. the long-term direction of the company, or what the company stands for.

5. Utilize past success

Much of the time, the best sales mechanism is to use your customers. Customer stories that focus on switching from a competitor to you are so powerful – especially if they have strong statistics that back them up.

6. Don’t underestimate your own role in winning a deal

At the end of the day, sales is a personable job. At Intercom, we’ve found that humans like doing business with other humans (especially humans they like). Being friendly, informed and honest as a sales rep can be as impactful as any feature release or marketing campaign.

Competition is a fact in sales. How you react to that competition will determine how many of these deals you will win. Don’t shy away from it; instead, be respectful, thoughtful and customer obsessed. You’ll reap the benefits in the long run.

Looking for more resources about using live chat to capture and convert leads? Check out the following posts: