5 Rules of Selling Against Your Competitor | David Priemer, Cerebral Selling

This episode is part of our monthly Competitive Enablement Show Live Series.

Watch the full session here above.

The Sparknotes

1️⃣ Get into discovery mode before responding to an objection

“Oftentimes as a seller, we need to slow down in the conversation and just explore”.

Defensiveness and a fear of rejection are two of the absolute worst feelings you can project in a sales call.

Who wants to do business with someone who’s overly sensitive and afraid of the word ‘no’?

That’s why David’s first rules of selling against competitors is to use objections as an opportunity to do discovery instead of immediately jumping into solution mode and reacting.

“When we hear [a competitive objection] it kind of triggers our brains and we get into defensive mode…and then we get into what sometimes is referred to as the ‘objection handling monologue'”.

Instead of a 30 second rehearsed monologue where you reactively handle an objection on auto-pilot, sellers should be asking open-ended questions to unearth more intel about the objection.

A simple question like “tell me more about that” can open up the conversation in a way that will help you better understand the factors holding your prospect back.

But if you lead the the objection handling monologue, you will end up misfiring on the wrong objection, or simply addressing the objection in the wrong way.

2️⃣ Don’t bash; be diplomatic

“Even if we give reps the right words, we don’t give them the right tone and how those words should sound.

Bashing — or being bashed by — a competitor can look and sound different in different situations

Your competitor may be comfortable with aggressively making claims that are downright false.

They may be making a claim that is partly true but doesn’t tell the whole story.

Or they could be leaning into a claim that once was true but no longer is the case.

The result is the same: your competitor has painted a negative picture of your product and you need to correct the record.

But just like reacting sharply to an objection robs you of a chance to do discovery, doing an eye-for-an-eye response to a false claim and bashing your competitor is a big mistake.

Instead, take the sales high-road and calmly bring the narrative back on track to shed positive light on your product.

If the claim is particularly ridiculous, laugh it off. If the claim is no longer applicable, show your prospect evidence that corrects the record.

And in competitive selling, as in life, a well-timed compliment about your competitor can pay dividends.

3️⃣ Phrase the narrative in the voice of your customers/industry experts

“You have to earn the right to talk about your platform. I think it’s actually more important to get really good at describing what it is you do.”

One of the biggest mistakes sellers in B2B SaaS make is conflating what their product is and what it actually does.

If in a deal the seller is asked “what does your product do?”, the throwaway answer is often “we’re a platform that does X.”

As David Priemer succinctly puts it: “No one cares about a platform. No one is buying you because you’re a platform.”

But what a prospect does care about, and what sellers need to focus on, is how their platform solves the problem the prospect deals with every day.

First, you have to make the prospect believe that you truly understand the problem they’re facing. And only then can you “earn the right” to talk about your platform.

Additionally, the way you make the prospect believe is by speaking with conviction that you understand the problem.

And if you need to add some extra credibility to your conviction to get your point across, lean on the bona fides of industry experts — like your founder and customers.

4️⃣ Use competitor objections as a qualification opportunity

“One of the biggest problems in sales is we don’t want to lose deals…the data I have tells me the best reps are the ones that lose fast.”

“Our product isn’t for everyone.”

Five simple words that make up one of the most important, but most underused, sentences in sales.

While a focus on not losing deals is both understandable and important, it’s actually more valuable to focus on winning deals as opposed to not losing deals.

Sometimes a prospect simply isn’t a good fit for your product. And on occasion, you can learn whether or not they are a good fit by using competitor objections as a means for qualification.

“When you’re getting too many competitive threats and and I say competitive threats. Objections, like what about this company? What about that company? Oh, it’s too expensive. I’m not sure it’ll work here. And then at a certain point, you’re just like, We don’t have to do this.”

By assessing the volume and tenor of these objections, you may be able to glean whether or not a prospect is seriously considering doing business with you, or is actually just wasting your time.

As such, you can start to understand what kinds of prospects are worth pursuing to the end versus those who you should be cutting loose sooner rather than later.

As David has learned through his research, sales reps that lose fast free up their time and better spend it with valuable prospects and customers.

And those are the kinds of sales reps every organization needs on their team.

5️⃣ Be honest

“As a sales rep, you’ve got to represent the company and know that if I bring this customer in, even though I might make my quota, it’s going to have downstream negative repercussions.”

As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy — especially when it comes to competitive deals.

But! Honesty doesn’t just mean conceding to your competitors. In fact, quite the opposite.

David uses the ‘innoculation theory’ to be honest, address a common objection, and regain a foothold in the deal.

How does it work in action? Here’s an example:

Your product is the most expensive in the space. Competitors love using that FUD whenever possible. If you know it’s bound to come up, don’t let them drop that hammer first.

Instead, lead with it and share the reasons why:

“You’ll notice that our solution isn’t going to be the cheapest. The reason we’re on the higher-end is that we provide amazing support, roll-out assistance, and [insert other things you do to justify price].”

If there’s a common objection that sales face in nearly every deal, don’t avoid it. 

Get ahead of it. And be honest.

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