By Tom Searcy
As Cathy, a CEO friend of mine likes to say, “Business is a rugby match, not a tea party.” It gets a bit exhausting always being the ‘nice guy’ in a not-so-nice world. Now, before the politically correct police seize my digital poison pen, let me explain a little bit further …
A client of mine is in a very competitive bid process, in which part of the challenge is differentiating itself from its competitors — in a way that isn’t about price. This company can present itself in a great way, but the language of its industry is rather common and shared between all of competitors. And the brutal reality is that that common language was pretty much invented by our client. In other words, this company’s people are so good at doing what they do, that everyone else jumped on the bandwagon.
But just how do they call out their competitors as the uninspired bottom-feeders they really are?(Without actually sending them to the bottom with those cement shoes … )
I don’t advocate running them down — that’s hardly the professional high road. And you can’t point out their flaws without making yourself look petty. So what’s a company to do?
My company uses a number of techniques in this situation. One of my favorites is FRAMING.
In framing, you define prospects’ market conditions in a specific way, and then illustrate why, in their current condition, you are their best solution. You also explain why someone else would be a great solution if your prospect was in a different set of circumstances — your prospect just isn’t. One of the keys to this approach is to compliment your competitors. I know, I know, it seems counter-intuitive. But here’s what you do: Place them as the best solution … in a very tiny set of conditions … which your prospect does not fit. Pretty smart, huh?
Here are a few framing language models to consider:
- Evolution: Describe the industry, market, and customer base over a period of time, and show what changes have happened. In this model, you can talk about the world of the 90s, the 00s and right now. By describing the evolution, you can define competitors’ advantages as addressing a world that no longer exists.
- Revolution: Technology, regulation, off-shore competitors and other circumstances revolutionize businesses. Placing your competitors as great pre-revolution solutions is a good way to pigeonhole their value and emphasize yours.
- Devolution: The world has gotten smaller — language like “Competition locally required this … , competition nationally requires that … , international competition demands something altogether.”
The language of these conversations follows this direction:
“Understanding your market as it was until (six months ago), I completely understand the choices you have made. As a matter of fact, I think under those circumstances, you probably made the best choice at that time. Under these conditions, I can see why you are exploring new options. Our specialty is helping companies like yours who are in this exact set of circumstances.”
Killing them with kindness and compliments.
I don’t have the monopoly on facing down competitors. What are some of your favorite techniques?
The founder and CEO of Hunt Big Sales, Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account selling and has made a career out of doing big deals and creating explosive growth. Read more about Tom here.
Originally published: Feb 20, 2012