A competitor across the aisle

We just did our last show for the year. This one is always a great show because our customers are there, and nearly everyone else is a prospect (or knows the person at their company who should be). And all our competitors are there, too.

This year, our main competitor was kitty-corner across the aisle from us. Intimidating to be sure. We’ve got to do better then them somehow, right? We’ve got to bring our A-game. Well, duh, we need to bring our A-game to a show regardless.

And what happened after a little while, is that we worked the show like we normally would, and so did they. Its hard to put on pretenses when you have visitors to interact with…they suddenly are our number-one focus.

So what did I get out of the experience?

  • Our salespeople working the booth are now a little more aware of the dynamics between our companies.
  • An opportunity to see how prospects behave differently when talking to us versus them.
  • We learned a bit more about our competitor’s sales-style based on their behavior in the show booth (showing vs. listening).
  • A chance to see what they know about our company, products, and people.

We had a couple mid-aisle conversations about the show, players in the industry, and other small talk. We see each other once a year, and I did learn I am pretty invisible to them (“are you from the home-office?”).

It was interesting when Peter, a former sales rep of ours, walked one of the competitors over to our booth and proceeded to point out the differences in our products. Then they walked back across the aisle. I kept silent.

Interesting, but who cares? He’s not going to copy what we do. If he didn’t know the details of our product by now, obviously he doesn’t care about it too much. Or, more likely, he doesn’t realize his own weaknesses.

Okay, I will admit wanting to do a close walk-around his product. But I had no reason to, either. We compete so directly, the biggest differences are not the products. Its the branding … and the people who represent the brand. And I think those differences came in to clearer focus for me after this show.

2 Replies to “A competitor across the aisle”

  1. Thanks for sharing this difficult to speak about topic. Most of us have been in a similar situation at some point, and we don’t want to admit too much interest in our competitors’ products, but it is there (‘is my impression of their product true, or do they have some secret?’).

    I would say there is another aspect that can distinguish the same product — training. I have a company that makes training software, and what should have been obvious to me is that training for our software should be the top priority (I won’t tell you how long it took me to get that!). I came to realize that product training is the most important — really a function of customer support.

    I think the savvy companies understand that training makes the product (for products that are more than mildly complex to use), and that can be a huge differentiator.

  2. Nice post. I think you hit the nail on the head . The real differences are often driven by differences in the brand and the behavior of those having contact with potential and actual customers. This is especially true when we are selling professional services which tend to blur “product “differences.
    Well said. Thanks…lwf

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