Paul Boross, The Pitch Doctor, answers a question on discussing your competition while pitching your product.
Q: I run a small but growing logistics business and I’m finding that when I pitch, the clients are becoming much more aware of our competitors and much more likely to compare our services with theirs. They challenge on price, service levels, all kinds of things, and I’m finding it really difficult when ‘put on the spot’ to come up with good counter arguments when, frankly, some of our competitors’ offerings are just as good as ours. How can I learn to think on my feet?
The Internet has certainly been a great leveller and buyers are better informed than ever before. This is wonderful when we’re the buyers, but not always a welcome thing for us when we’re selling, because sometimes we have to hold our hands up and admit that our competitors’ products are better.
But better products are only part of the story, because you mention the word ‘services’, and a service is an intangible asset that is made up of many more components than what’s on the invoice. Service levels are something you can quantify, but the absolute feeling of certainty that a service provider understands your business and has your interests at heart is not something you generally find in a contract. A service level agreement does not make you reliable and trustworthy.
Your main question about thinking on your feet is interesting, because it almost presumes that good presenters can and do come up with good answers on the spot. This is, in fact, rarely the case. What seems like a spontaneous response to an objection is usually the result of a great deal of experience in answering that objection and dealing with the same questions. The key is to put yourself, honestly, in your customers’ shoes. When you deliver your pitch, do you believe everything you say? Do you gloss over issues that you know are a problem? Do you avoid talking about areas where you know your competitors are strong? If so then your customers pick up on that and they intuitively want to know what you’re hiding, so of course you want to think on your feet because you’ve been put on the spot.
The bottom line is that honest and thorough preparation, seeing yourself through your customer’s eyes, means that you’ll already have the answers before they think of the questions. And always remember, there is never any harm in taking someone’s question so seriously that you need time to give careful thought to your answer.
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