Competition is a funny topic. When I talk to Gartner clients about competition, I usually get a list of specific companies that do similar things to the client (unless they go with the “We have no competition” angle). And, while this is valid at some point in the buying cycle, it is often missing the point and can distract you from the bigger prize, delaying growth in your market and sales for you.
With that in mind, do you know the two biggest competitors that every technology company that sells in a B2B environment face?
The first one is somewhat obvious and often acknowledged. It’s status quo. Change can be hard and many companies, despite the time and effort they spend evaluating technologies, many decide to do nothing or delay the purchase. While you can blame this on an unwillingness to change, the real issue is that, in the mind of the buying team (or decision maker), the value of the outcomes they anticipate from your product are less than the effort required to get them. This is more than a simple ROI discussion–it’s about organizational dynamics and effort beyond pure dollars to get value. As part of your selling efforts, likely in the engagement activity stream, you need stories, backed by proof points that outline how to get value quickly, including how to involve and gain support from the people in the organization.
How about the second competitor? If you can prove the value story and convince buyers that the status quo is not acceptable, you are not done. In fact, this is the competitor that is most often ignored.
It’s other projects. Every organization has a budget (yes, we always try to qualify for budget—but budgets get reallocated) and a set of resources that are available to work on projects. Not only do you need to convince buyers that your solution delivers value, but you also have to convince them that your project is more important than the others they are considering.
This is a complex effort when selling to large enterprises that have lots of resources and projects, with different sponsors. A path forward is to focus on your project team. Try to get them to share the other projects and priorities they are working on (or considering) right now. That is your competition. One path might be akin to co-opetition–align yourself with a project that is already committed and illustrate how together, even more value is possible. Another is to illustrate why the pain or opportunity that you address is more significant than the other projects. Lastly, you could illustrate how your project would be lower risk with a faster time to value.
Without addressing the other project competition, you run the risk of winning the battle within your area, but discovering a different form of the “do nothing” decision. It’s not that status quo is acceptable. Instead, it’s “we’ve decided that other things are more important.” This is why some folks (myself included), think that BANT as a qualification model may not make sense in all cases (check out this great post from Bob Apollo for another perspective). Just because your project has been budgeted does not mean it will be executed. Other projects, both planned and unplanned, may take priority. And if your not budgeted, don’t necessarily give up, if you can prove you address and issue that is more important, in a way that the buying organization is more confident they can generate value, then you can cause them to change priorities.
Have you faced these situations? Do you take the fact that they have budget for your area for granted? What are other techniques you have used to win the battle against these strong competitors?