We are obsessed with our competition. We study them and their strategies. We compare them, their solutions, their capabilities to ours. We read their reviews, reveling over the customer complaints, trying to figure out how to leverage them into our strategies. We develop playbooks and battlecards to help position ourselves.
And then there’s the comparison checklists on our websites. You know the one’s I’m talking about. They present a long list of features and capabilities of our products, often very obscure like, “Sponsors grade school soccer teams….” Then our products are positioned in the first column with the competitors products in the following columns. And, as always, every row for our checklist is checked off or has 4 stars. And the competitors have lots of blank spaces or 1 or 2 stars. Clearly, demonstrating our product superiority.
And the competitors have their checklists, usually featuring their best capabilities, and some obscure and unique one’s like, “We speak Australian….” And their evaluation puts us and the other competitors to shame.
And this drives the endless feature wars, as each new product release seeks to one-up each competitor.
At the end, what have we proved, more importantly do our mutual customers even care?
Too often, we focus so much on proving our feature/function/feeds/speeds superiority over the competition, forgetting what the customer is trying to achieve and what is important to them.
Customers don’t care about who offers the most features and functions. Obscure capabilities that differentiate us from competition, are probably meaningless to them. The fact that one competitor sponsors grade school soccer teams and another speaks Australian is probably meaningless (Unless you are an Australian parent with kids who play soccer—then you have a dilemma.)
In the end, any of the alternatives the customer has on their short list, can probably solve their problem. Yet, we continue to focus on differentiating our products with “Ours is better than theirs,” until we get to “Ours is cheaper than theirs…”
Focusing on the competition isn’t helpful to the customer.
Here’s a thought experiment. If any of the alternatives can solve the customer problem, and you can’t discount, what do you do to win?
- Help make sure the customer fully defines the problem and everyone in the buying group is aligned with this view of the problem.
- Help the customer understand questions they should be asking themselves–not about the solutions, but about the problem they are trying to solve.
- Help customers define and manage their buying process effectively.
- Help customers maintain/build consensus through the buying process.
- Help customers get the organizational and managerial support they need for taking action.
- Help customer become confident they are solving the right problem in the right way.
- Help customers the customer understand the risks–both of doing nothing, and of the action they are taking.
- Help the customer make sense of the information they are getting and that they are focusing on that which is most important to them. Help them find the information most relevant to them, even if that information may come from a competitor–and share your point of view on the information.
- Help the customer make a decision in which they have confidence.
- Recognize that solution selection is only one part of the customer’s job, implementation, adaptation, and having a plan that reduces the risk of achieving their desired goals is the biggest part of the job. Help them develop those.
- And all of this demonstrates that you care for them and their success. Make sure everything you do demonstrates that you care.
Now some of you are saying, “That’s a huge amount of effort and takes a long time!”
But here’s the magic. The customer has to do those things, anyway. And they wander, get lost, often abandon the project–so any time you have invested is wasted. They struggle and need help. By helping them, you help more reach a decision in which they are confident, and they actually reach it faster than if they were unsupported (Actually, about 30% faster.)
And while you are doing this, your competitors keep focusing on demonstrating how their solution is better than the others. And when the customer knows that any solution will solve their problem, which solution will they select.
We spend too much time battling the competition and trying to demonstrate our product/solution superiority, when that’s not what’s important to the customer. Imagine what might happen when we focus on what’s important to them.
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