Competitive Sales Guidance: Don’t send your sales teams on a scavenger hunt

If you are part of a competitive intelligence team or a sales team, I’m sure you are familiar with this scenario: your company has a critical account or a need-to-win customer that your competition is also pitching to. A salesperson on the account team asks the CI analyst for competitive sales help, and the CI analyst says, “Please look at our internal website or Sharepoint site—we have lots of documents that address our competition.”

Great. So now the salesperson has to hunt through many pieces of content that may or may not pertain directly to the customer deal at hand. This does not help win the deal in an efficient fashion. It’s a mistake that I’ve seen made in multiple companies: salespeople want help with how to sell against the competition, but what they get is competitive data when what they really need is competitive guidance.

There’s an important distinction here that gets missed between competitive intelligence and competitive guidance: the output from a CI team should not make more work for the consumer of the information. What many sales-supporting CI teams fail to do is to provide the distinct and customized “how-to” that tells sales what they need to say or do in order to win a deal. Sure, you’ve made sales guides and silver bullet sheets and cheat sheets and playbooks and competitor profiles, but the problem with all of that is that no matter how much information is put into them, it’s never just right for each individual deal.

I hear your objection already: “But it’s futile to try to make content that is particular to every deal. There are just too many deals!” And, you’re right. But that’s where the flaw exists in most sales-facing CI programs. CI teams, especially the ones that support sales teams, focus on building content that provides information, when instead they should be focusing on how to provide guidance that can be tailored to each deal.

When it comes down to it, the main job of a salesperson is to do one thing: to close a deal in order to bring revenue to the company. Yes, there are several other things as well, but the less time that a salesperson is closing deals, the less profitable your company becomes. If you are making your sales teams dig through hundreds of slides in a playbook, or if you are making them modify silver bullets that aren’t just quite right, you are taking away from the time they could be spending closing a deal and moving on to the next one.

So now you’re asking “Ok, so what is this guidance that they need?” I’m glad you finally asked. Your sales teams most commonly need a few specific tips in a competitive sales environment:

1. What is the competitor product?
2. How do I position my product against the specific competitor product?
3. What landmines might the competitor have set for me, and how do I avoid or diffuse them?
4. How is the competitor positioning their product relative to mine, and how can I deposition it?
5. How do all the features compare between my product and the competitor’s product, and which are the strengths and weaknesses?
6. What are the main benefits for each of the key features of my product?

If your salesperson knows all of these things, then he or she is probably pretty well equipped to convince the customer why your product or service is better than the competitive offering.

So make it easy for your sales teams. Don’t send them on a scavenger hunt when they need guidance on how to win a deal.