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Two Reasons Why Sellers Close (or Flop) against Competitors, According to the Data

Two Reasons Why Sellers Close (or Flop) against Competitors, According to the Data

This article is part of our By the Numbers series, where we share findings from our data so that you can compete better. Today we’re analyzing results from our latest report surveying 300+ revenue leaders, and spoke with top sellers, sales leaders, and compete experts. Subscribe to Coffee & Compete on LinkedIn to read more data-driven articles like this.

A year ago hitting quota, meeting targets, and closing deals was a whole lot easier.

It was like starring in a Christopher Nolan film — you’re probably bagging an award or two even if you’re an extra.

Fast forward to today and the script reads a little different.

91% of revenue leaders said their deals have become more competitive this year. 

Less in the pipeline. Greater budget scrutiny. More due diligence during RFIs.

Not a shocker.

But, Klue data shows a more troubling trend happening: winnable deals are slipping through the cracks to your competitors. Here’s why.

The gap between sellers’ performance is widening

When more competitors appear in every one of your deals and new spend gets more scrutiny than the partner your sibling has brought home for the holidays, the gap between individual rep performance widens:

Klue report data shows that 76% of revenue leaders are seeing a greater separation between high and low performing reps in competitive sales deals

In fact, 76% of revenue leaders said that they’ve seen a greater separation between the top and low performers in more competitive market conditions this year.

So what exactly is causing this growing gap?

Differentiating from competitors is easier said than done

Only 30% of revenue leaders are confident their reps are able to show their differentiated value in a deal effectively.  

Klue report data shows only 30% of revenue leaders are confident their reps can differentiate effectively in a deal.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Tracking overall win rates isn’t enough

Jody Geiger, Revenue Enablement at Klue: Oftentimes we get a little bit myopic internally and think, ‘Obviously our own solution is different!’. But leaders aren’t sure if their reps actually know how to differentiate. 

And your buyer is going to look at competitors. 

In fact, they have to from a due diligence perspective in this market.

One thing we do as a team to keep on top of this is to track win rates against specific competitors, not just overall. It’s time to double down on this metric.

It allows you to see how your reps are performing against specific competitors, which is a strong indicator as to if they’re differentiating effectively.

We know it’s tougher to sell in this market. But tracking performance in the deals where budget was allocated for and a purchase was made is critical in ensuring your team closes what’s already in their pipeline.

(Pssst: Avoid deals slipping through the cracks with our trap question toolkit made in collaboration with our friends at 30 Minutes to President’s Club. Grab it below.)

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Get your sellers out of the feature weeds

Jennifer Roberts, Director of Marketing Strategy at ServiceTitan: There was an ankle biter emerging on the scene. One deal, in particular, meant a lot to the company and they were involved. Again. 

In this deal, we had a rep really selling on the product. If you’re going back and forth on features and functions, you’ve already lost the deal. Now you’re not selling on value. 

In this deal our team was able to work with the rep to take them out of the weeds of ‘this has widget ABC, but I need widget DEF’.

The biggest lesson for our Compete team in that deal was how to position our differentiation internally to our own teams. We had a battlecard for this competitor! 

But it wasn’t hitting the mark for reps to sell beyond features.

If I think about what the battlecard looked like back then to what it is now, it has evolved greatly because we started just being better listeners of what sellers wanted. 

Always squeeze in your value wedge

Qayam Noorani, Account Executive at Klue: One of my favourite tactics for selling against competitors is using the value wedge.

Think of a Venn diagram:

  • One bubble are things unique to your product or solution
  • Another bubble is your competitors’ unique advantages
  • And the final bubble is what matters to your prospect

Where all three overlap is product parity. The space where your competitors’ advantages and your buyer’s wants overlap is the area that you need to steer the conversation away from.

And the space where things that are unique to you overlap with what matters to the prospect… that is your value wedge.

As a seller, ideally, your Compete team has worked with you to define a list of 7-10 of your unique differentiators at a high level.

Then it’s up to you as a rep to figure out the 2 or 3 most relevant to pull from and use in your specific deal.

When running your next discovery call listen closely to your buyer, and map what differentiators are going to be the value wedges that you anchor on throughout the sales cycle.

Sellers are spotting competitors too late in the deal

Swinging at a piñata blindly? Fun!

Selling against competitors blindly? Not so much.

But, it’s the reality for a surprising amount of reps today: 

Klue report data shows nearly half of revenue leaders say their reps are only picking up on competitor presence at the negotiation stage or later.

In fact, 47% of revenue leaders say their reps only pick up competitors being in the deal at the negotiation stage or later.

It’s impossible to differentiate in a deal when you don’t know who you’re up against. Here are a few ways experts tackle this:

Take your competitive action before it’s too late

Chris Orlob, Former Head of Sales & GTM at Gong: Competitive selling is like crafting a vase out of clay. You have the opportunity to form it when it’s wet  — that’s what the first half of a sales cycle is. 

Once you let it dry, it’s now a base that you can’t morph. The things you do during the first half of your sales cycle have a way of crystallizing and dragging into the second half of the sales cycle.

At Gong, we would teach our reps to add or removes steps in the sales cycle, depending on who we were selling against. For example, Chorus was our chief competitor in 2018.

Chorus had a better Salesforce integration and was cheaper than us. Gong had email capture and an interface that reps loved and used more.

If those things are true, what am I going to recommend customers about their evaluation? At Gong, we’re going to recommend a pilot and turning on email because our usage stats are going to look a lot better compared to Chorus.

Once you get clear on what your competitor’s relative strengths and weaknesses look like, you should then design your sales process to take advantage of your strengths, mitigate your weaknesses, mitigate your competitor’s strengths and expose their weaknesses.

Build a meaningful ‘How to Spot Them’ competitive battlecard

Dave Washer, Director of Data Operations at Klue: Oftentimes people new to competitive enablement try to write a ‘How to Spot Them’ battlecard, but they end up writing fluff. 

They go to competitor websites, find their marketing messages, and put them into a battlecard.

And that will be the first and last time a rep reads it.

Here are two ways to help reps spot competitors in deals quicker:

  1. Review your CRM data to see what scenarios a competitor appears in

One of our customers at Klue discovered in their data that they always saw a particular competitor, but only when selling in the utilities space.

With that knowledge, they can tell reps within their battlecard to expect the competitor to be in any deal within that industry.

This way the rep can be focused on running a tight deal cycle and proactively depositioning rather than trying to pick up if a competitor is present or not.

2. Use call recording software to pick up info

When reps are picking up a competitor’s presence too late in a deal, competitive enablement teams need to review what happened to help sellers pick up on their presence earlier.

Analyze those calls using call recording software. Note when the competitor popped up in the sales cycle, and backtrack to earlier points that could have tipped off the rep to their presence.

  • Did a buyer use a keyword that competitors commonly use? 
  • Was it a use case or specific feature the buyer focused on? 
  • Were there questions the buyer asked that you know a competitor often seeds?

Compete teams can often identify a competitor two or three weeks ahead of a seller because of the vast amount of data they’ll have. That’s the kind of competitive insight you need to have to build a deal-winning sales battlecard that reps actually use in a deal.

Close MORE deals against your competitors

Knock your competitors out of a deal quicker, and you’re far more likely to close what’s in your current pipeline.

But getting them out of the deal is the tough part.

That’s why we teamed up with 30 Minutes to President’s Club to build a toolkit of the trap questions to ask, how to land them, and the battlecard framework you should use to do so.

Grab the toolkit here, and get the competition out of your deal.

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