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Competitive Demos – How to Attack Your Competitor’s Strengths

competitive demos

Competitive demos are stressful, especially when you’re operating on very little knowledge or hearsay information about your competitor’s weaknesses.

Here’s the thing about focusing on your competitor’s weaknesses. Just like you, they know their own shortcomings and there’s a good chance they’ve been schooled on how to neutralize them with some clever positioning or avoidance tactics.

That gives you the perfect opening to attack their strengths when you’re doing highly competitive demos, especially when their weaknesses aren’t show-stoppers. How can your competitors possibly disagree with or defend their strong suits? There’s no answer for that!

Talking negatively about your competitors without prompting from buyers is generally not a good practice because it takes the luster off your strengths. The great thing about attacking your competitor’s strengths is you never have to mention them. It’s a matter of helping buyers understand why those strengths don’t align with their goals.

All of this is not to say that you shouldn’t expose their glaring weaknesses if they have them, but hitting their strengths too gives you an even stronger position.

The Best Way to Gather Competitive Intel

Gathering competitive intelligence may be a little harder with so many demos taking place virtually, but it’s still possible. Be sure to take full advantage when your demos are in-person too.

In most every competitive demo, there are people on the evaluation team that are in your court and those that are in the court of your competitor. It’s pretty easy to flesh out who’s in each camp based on the nature of their questions and the tone in which they’re asked.

From the initial discovery meeting or demo (many times it’s the same meeting), do your best to build a strong rapport with someone that seems to favor your solution. Do your best to create a reason for a follow-up conversation, like getting back to them on a technical product question or discussing how other similar customers are using the product.

Then find out why they prefer you over the competition. Sometimes, they just don’t like your competitor’s sales team. Other times it’s their company or it’s something specific to their product. And finally, every company does its best to sell their strengths from the first meeting. Find out what that is when possible.

Once you have a good handle on the above, you can formulate a great competitive strategy.

Attacking Your Competitor’s Strengths

Before I get into the tactics, keep in mind these things are situational. Also keep in mind that more experienced competitors may use these tactics on you, so be prepared!

Company Strengths

If your competition is the biggest player in your market, they’ll say things like, “we have more customers than all of our competitors combined,” or “we process more transactions than anyone else in our market.” 

You can head this off by first predicting they’re going to say it. It’s a great tactic that will often discredit them because they’re predictable. Follow that prediction by positioning the superior personalization customers get from you because of your smaller size and narrower focus. Customer results and metrics ice the cake if you have them.

Product Strengths

Back in my solution consultant days, our biggest competitor’s strength was their technology platform. They were basically selling a toolbox more so than packaged solutions. They sold heavily to the IT contingent as they would value those strengths most. For every feature deficiency, they had the answer – you can build it exactly the way you want with our platform.

By contrast, we were selling packaged solutions that were turnkey. Our superior out-of-the-box functionality combined with our customization capabilities (that didn’t require IT development) were enough to satisfy 90% of most buyer’s requirements.

Our competitive strategy was pretty straight forward. Before our demos, we always found out if we were going first or last. Depending on the situation, we’d try to pick our place in the demo sequence where it was most advantageous.

In either case, we predicted what our competitors were saying about their “have it your way” platform, and we openly acknowledged that you could build anything you want. We never mentioned them by name unless asked. 

Our demos though, emphasized the benefits of buying it already done versus taking the time and effort to custom build large mission-critical chunks of functionality.

Then we’d follow with highlight reel user scenarios on how strong our products were out of the box and demonstrated how we met the buyer’s needs with no custom development and plenty of customer references.

We’d end the demo by positioning the exponentially shorter on-boarding process because of our turnkey solutions. We made it a point to emphasize all the drawbacks of long drawn out implementation projects, stops and starts, cost overruns, project team turnover, etc., and the risk of project failure. Without ever saying it, we were implying a decision to buy from our competitor could negatively impact people’s careers.

We rarely lost a deal to them, which is how we got to be twice their size considering both companies were founded around the same time. When we did lose, it was because IT was in the driver’s seat and fell in love with our competitor’s technology. It was a new toy for them!

The Bottom Line on Attacking Your Competitor’s Strengths

If you’re going to attack your competitor’s strengths, the most important thing to focus on is the consequences to the customer of doing business with you versus them. 

What they do or how they do it is secondary to the end result. As a solution consultant, this is easy to forget because we’re product people and we always want to show how our product is better. 

Remember, our products are the proof points. Measurable business outcomes are what buyers care about most. Those business outcomes are what they get paid to deliver!

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by John Mansour on February 21, 2024.