Start dialing: Why you should call your competition and how to do it

by Steli Efti

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How much do you know about your competitors?

Most people spend a lot of time doing online research to find information about their competitors. Truth is, often that time is wasted.

Instead of searching the depths of the internet and relying on questionable information, why not go straight to the source?

The best way to find the answers to your questions? Pick up the phone, call your competitors and ask them.

Act like a prospect

When you call your competitors, you’ll most likely talk to a junior sales rep. This person will qualify you before they pass you on to the account executive that’ll want to close the deal.

Here’s how to prepare for the call.

Choose a persona

Before you pick up the phone, ask yourself who you are as a prospect. In order to get the most out of the conversation, pick a persona that fits their business. This will help you during the qualifying process.

Have your answers ready

The junior sales rep will take you through a qualifying process and ask their qualifying questions. Look at your own qualifying script to design your answers in a way that fits your persona and also ensures you’ll end up as a qualified prospect.

Know what to ask

The junior sales rep is often not experienced or trained enough to know that they don’t have to answer all your questions, so they usually do it. Here’s what to ask to get the conversation going.

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Innovation: What’s next for their product?

  • What’s the story behind the product?
  • How do you decide what features to build?
  • How often do you release new features?
  • What’s your most popular feature?
  • What are some big feature releases coming up?

Cost: What’s their pricing model?

  • What was the thinking behind the different plans?
  • Which plan is the most popular and why?
  • Why does the price start at $x?
  • Do you offer discounts?

Team: How strong is their sales team?

  • How many people work there?
  • How big is your sales team?
  • How is your sales team structured?
  • What does the sales cycle look like?

Growth: How quick are they growing?

  • How many customers do you have?
  • Who is your biggest customer?
  • How fast are you growing?
  • Are you funded?

Competition: How do you compare to others?

  • What makes you better than company X?
  • Why should I choose you over company X?
  • What do you think of company X?

Do some of these questions sound too specific? Let’s take a look at a few examples of how you can add more context to your questions.

Add context to your questions

Some of the questions you’ll want to ask might sound odd coming from a potential buyer. Put them into context and frame them in a way that gives the sales rep an opportunity to answer them without getting suspicious.

Product

“My team is growing increasingly disappointed with our current solution. It seems they’re not innovating at all and new features are few and rare. Can you tell me a bit about the product side of things? How often to you release new features? We’ve been waiting for over a year for feature X, is that something you’ll be able to offer soon?”

Pricing

"I'm thinking about leaving competitor X because I’m having a really difficult time justifying paying X and only getting Y. Your pricing seems more sensible, but can you explain why the pricing model looks like this? Seems like feature X should be available to everyone."

Team

"I'm currently comparing company X, Y and Z. I'm worried about not getting the support I need in this process. What does your sales team look like? Do you have account executives available in case I decide to buy? I’d love to know since I’ve had really bad experiences in the past."

Growth

“We invested a lot of time and money in another solution recently, but they were up and running for less than a year and then they went bust. We’d hate to be in the same situation again, so if you don’t mind me asking, are you currently backed by any investors or have plans for funding?”

Competition

“We used company X for a really long time, but it seems they are falling behind. We want to be with the strongest solution in the market. You guys seem to be the company everyone’s talking about, can you tell me how you compare to other solutions?"

When you frame your questions in a way that provides more context for the sales rep, they’ll be more likely to provide you with an answer. When they hear the word “compare”, they’ll jump on the opportunity to tell you why their solution is the better choice.

Mixing in compliments such “Your pricing seems more sensible” and “You guys seem to be the company everyone’s talking about” will give them that extra pat on the shoulder that’ll keep them happy and chatty.

Be ambiguous

You don’t have to take the approach of pretending to be a prospect. You can simply call your competitors and start asking questions without putting on a persona. This is an approach that’s fitting for someone with more experience.

A good way to avoid qualifying questions is to act like a researcher rather than a prospect. Try this approach.

“I’m calling on behalf of my company and we’re interested in licensing your product. I can’t share any information with you at this point as we’d prefer to be in control of the buying process. Currently, all I’m doing is collecting information and once we’re ready to talk further I will let you know. Does this sound good?”

This way you’re making your situation clear to the sales rep and you’ll be in control of the conversation going forward.

The benefits of calling your competitors

There are two main benefits to calling your competitors. One is to conduct market research and one is to train your sales reps. Let’s take a closer look at both.

Conducting market research

Whether you’re launching a new startup or want to make sure your company is keeping up with the competition, there’s no better way of conducting research than going straight to the source.

Entering a new market

Thinking about starting up your own business? Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Design your questions in a way that helps you understand how you will compare to your competitors. This will not only help you gain a better understanding of the market, but it’ll also help you develop your competitive edge.

This will be the easiest way to help you figure out how to launch, when to launch and even if you should launch.

Keeping up with the market

When you’re competing for deals with these companies, you want to know what they’re telling their prospects about you.

How do they position you as a competitor? What do they train their sales reps to say about you as a competitor? What do they say is their competitive advantage? Are they lying or are they telling the truth? Do they have a really strong pitch against you? Perhaps they don’t even care.

Stay on the pulse of these companies in order to not fall behind.

The onboarding process

Got some fresh talent on your team? Tell your reps to go to your top five competitors, sign up for a free trial and request a demo, talk to a rep and ask them about the market and about the product.

This will provide them with much needed context of the market and help them do a better job of selling your product. You want your reps to be as educated as possible, and your competitors are another resource to make that happen.

Training your sales reps

Calling your competitors isn’t just about doing research. It’s also a great way to train your sales reps. It’s not something you do just once. You want to check in every now and then to see if they’re making any changes and how those changes might affect your business.

Perhaps their sales team has become really good? Imagine if a rep from a competitor can convince you that your product is terrible, well, then you’re in trouble. You want to know this information so that you can build a case against it. There’s your motivation to up your game and hustle harder.

Perhaps their sales game is really weak? Enjoy the confidence boost, but don’t get too comfortable.

Is calling your competitors ethical?

This is something you need to decide for yourself. Is it common practice? Sure. It’s highly likely that your competitors have called or reached out to you in some way.

One way to do it is asking a friend whose company is a real prospect for your competitors to make the call on your behalf. Provide them with guidelines on how to navigate the conversation and a list of questions to ask.

Did we do this at Close.io? Initially, no. In fact, we ignored all our competitors. We were in a unique situation as we built the platform for internal use when we were running ElasticSales. The decision to launch it to the public came from external demand, and our competitors were never something we were concerned with.

Depending on your situation, calling your competitors might be incredibly valuable. Your call.

Have a clear purpose

What you ask depends on what you want to learn. What’s the purpose of calling your competitors? Perhaps you’re doing it as training, or perhaps you want to know about upcoming features? Maybe you want to see how they manage objections and draw some inspiration from their tactics?

Regardless of why you’re calling, have a clear outcome in mind before picking up the phone to make sure you get the answers you need.

I hope this post gave you some ideas about how to approach researching your competitors and how to go about it when you do.

We’re happy to be compared to our competitors, so why don’t you sign up for a free 14-day trial and see what our inside sales CRM can do for your workflow?

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