Everything you can do, I can do better… Do you obsess over your competition?
You’ve probably fallen into the same trap as everyone else when it comes to worrying about competitors. Have you looked at your competitors’ products to figure out if there’s something you want to copy? Have you checked out their reviews on Glassdoor to learn more about their company culture and the happiness of their employees? Do you have Google Alerts set up for mentions of their company or product name? Do you follow what they’re posting on social media? Well, while it’s good to know what your competition is up to, obsessing too much can be a colossal waste of time and can make you lose focus. Let’s take a few minutes to reflect on some of the things that you should and should not concern yourself with when it comes to your competition.
There are many sources of inspiration for your product roadmap. Chances are that your sales reps, your support team, your professional services department, your client advocate, and basically every customer- and prospect-facing individual will bring their feedback to the table on a daily basis. As I mentioned in a previous post, the trick is to know when to say no to a certain request. So should you worry about product features of your competitors? My answer is “mostly no”. Obviously, you want to know how other products solve their customers’ problems, but hopefully, you are confident that you will find better ways to help your customers achieve their goals. Yes, you might hear from a prospect “But XYZ has this particular feature. That’s really what I was looking for”, or maybe your sales rep is convinced that “if only we had this feature that competitor ABC had, we would have won the deal”. But that doesn’t mean that you have to drop what you’re doing, change your roadmap, and create a replica of said feature. First of all, you only want to implement features which provide substantial value. Never build something gimmicky just because it “demos well”. Equip your sales reps with in depth knowledge about your product philosophy and with the right questions to ask a prospect. Always approach feature requests with a focus on solving the prospect’s problems and helping them achieve their goals. In other words, focus on the what when talking to a prospect before figuring out the how.
Let’s face it – no matter what types of products or services you provide, there’s always someone who’ll do it cheaper. Trying to win a deal by starting a race to the bottom is not just bad business for you, but it ultimately harms your industry, and, as a result, the quality of the products available, and that is not in the best interest of your clients. Be sure you get compensated fairly and in a way that allows you to continue to innovate and to provide amazing customer service. Be sure that your prospects and customers understand the value they’re getting.
Some companies are more aggressive than others when it comes to competitive intel. In fact, we’ve had competitors use fake names to sign up for our webinars (I’m looking at you, “Jim Legg”!), use their personal accounts to get demos of our product, and even recruit their own customers to ask for demos just for the intel. Is it annoying? Sure, since it’s a distraction. You definitely want to be aware of those instances, since you don’t want to give away too much information. More importantly, you don’t want to waste your sales reps’ time on prospects that really only do some work for your competitors. But ultimately, don’t let paranoia take up real estate in your head that you could use more wisely by focusing on your product.
What they say about you
Arguably the hardest thing to ignore, or at least to not get enraged over, is what your competitors say about your company and product when it’s not true. Obviously, your gut reaction is to call them out. In situations in which the prospect tells you about derogatory and false statements that your competitors made, be thankful that you’re given the chance to present the facts, but be sure to do so in a way that reflects your company values and that establishes trust. While it can certainly be helpful to find out what your competitors say about you, so that you can be adequately prepared, it’s best to primarily focus on your relationship with the prospect.
What about your competitors’ customer lists? How much attention should you pay to those? It’s definitely helpful to know which customers who would be/would have been great fits for you ended up choosing one of your competitors. When you lose a deal, always do a post mortem in order to understand why this happened. In some instances, maybe it wasn’t a good fit from the beginning due to budget or unrealistic expectations. In this case, identify what could have been done to walk away earlier in the process. It’s a much tougher loss when an organization would have been a good or even ideal fit for you. Ask your team what they would have done differently in hindsight. Then, move on, but be sure that someone follows up with the prospect after a certain amount of time. When looking at your and your competition’s customers, don’t just count logos. Always think about fit.
From a price standpoint, there’s always someone who will be cheaper. There’s also always going to be a “bigger boat”. However, one of the things that is most within your control is the level of service that you provide to your customers and your prospects. As I mentioned previously, company culture is how people feel after interacting with anyone on your team. Note that you will be hard pressed to find a company who does not make the claim to deliver great service. Look at your competitors, but also look at other companies that are known for having amazing service, and do whatever you can to be better than any of them. If you don’t let anyone out-care you, you will prevail.
Knowing your competitive landscape is necessary, but don’t let it paralyze you. Learn and get inspired where possible, and focus on the things that you can control.
What about you? What do you concern or not concern yourself with when it comes to your competition?