My last blog focused on “coop-petition,” a term used to describe a situation in which companies that would typically be competitors find themselves partnering on an opportunity. In today’s blog post, we are going to talk about when cooperation is the last thing on your mind.

If you have spent any time in sales, you probably have found yourself in a situation where a competitor has a head start on you. Maybe your competitor has already had a meeting or two with the agency, or maybe government officials are already familiar with the company because of its strong brand presence.

So, what do you do when a government official openly asks how your solution compares to your competitor’s?

Your first option is to openly bash your competition – calling names, pointing out flaws, drudging up negative publicity. Beware of this tactic. The government official may have already invested in your competition’s solution and may view its leadership as trusted advisors. Calling your competition names could be insulting and confusing. It also makes you appear defensive and arrogant. Ultimately, it doesn’t help the customer determine the best path forward.

Your second option is to point out the differences between your solution and the competition’s – indicating how your solution is superior. Keeping your commentary polite and respectful is something an official will likely appreciate and ultimately paints you in a positive light.

But even though taking option two is synonymous with taking the higher road, it still can be a disservice to you.

I recently was sitting with a client and she mentioned her company’s philosophy about how to address the competition. When you mention your competitor by name, you reinforce your competitor’s brand. Now all of a sudden your customer is not thinking about your solution, but also your competitor’s.

So what do you do?

Leave the competition’s name out of it and talk in terms of solution differences. Maybe it is “the limits of a desktop-centric user experience;” “the costs of a proprietary platform that prevents interoperability;” “the risks of legacy system software stack;” or that your consulting services firm offers more than “bits and bytes of data.” This helps your customer put information in context without helping your competitor increase its brand awareness.

Ultimately, you know the best way to describe your solution as compared to your competitor.

Just remember, the competition has a marketing budget to make sure government officials recognize their brand. Don’t be another marketing tool. Instead, use the meeting to point out your own company’s key differentiators and stay away from giving attention to any of the positive attributes of the other brand.

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