Competitive strategy has been a recurring theme in my work over the last few years. With the fast pace of market change and a global playing field, B2B software companies need to work smarter than ever to gain the winning edge. Getting good competitive intelligence is a huge part of the equation, but you also need to know how to put that intelligence to work. Here are five things I have learned about creating competitive playbooks that make a real difference.
- Invest in the homework.
There’s no substitute for deep competitive knowledge. The best methods for gathering it vary from market to market, but don’t forget that:
> Google is your friend. (I never fail to learn surprising things!)
> The sales team is your friend. In addition to their observations in the field, you can capture questions and rumors that explain or corroborate other pieces of information.
> Customers and non-customers are your friends (which comes to my next point)…
Talk to real people.
Clients that have taken the time to do comprehensive win/ loss analysis have always seen a good payoff. I have gained useful insights about product capabilities, positioning, and sales approaches from win/ loss interviews. You may be worried about upsetting a client relationship or burning a bridge, but I have seen that giving people the opportunity to provide honest feedback has the opposite effect. Even prospects that don’t choose your solution are often more than willing to share their opinions.
Wear two hats: your buyer and your sales team.
The competitive strategies you choose must align with your prospects’ needs and buying behavior. If you’re selling in many B2B markets, you will probably have multiple buyer personas to consider. CEB reports that the average B2B sales cycle now includes 5.4 buyers. That’s a lot of differing viewpoints!
In addition, your competitive strategies also need to reflect the structure and capabilities of your own sales team. When I create competitive strategies, I keep both the buyers’ and the sales team’s perspectives in mind.
Look at the full competitive picture.
It’s rare that a sales team only faces one competitor. Individual competitor strategies need to work when applied together.
Keep it simple.
Effective competitive playbooks don’t resemble an NFL playbook. Sales teams can’t absorb that much complex information, and they can’t put it to use in the heat of a deal. Remember your end users and the situation in which they’re working. And pare your strategies down to the essential stuff.
What works well for you? I’d love to hear!
Posted on Mon, February 1, 2016
by Linda Sonne-Harrison