My experience has taught me that you win deals very early in the process. It’s also likely that you lose deals very early in the process, as well. You can also create enough of a preference to win a deal early in the process, only to lose it down the final stretch.
One of the things that allows you to position yourself and build value early in the process is differentiating yourself from your competitors. It also helps to differentiate your offering from your competitor’s offering. It’s especially important to do this if buying what you sell requires the client to make a more significant investment. Your higher price is a sword, not a shield. Price is an offensive weapon that demonstrates that you create greater value, and greater value always commands a more significant investment.
Differentiate Or Die
There are people, however, who never want to mention their competitor, and hope to differentiate themselves and their company without having to do so. They believe that by not saying anything about their competitors at all, they are seen as real professionals, above the fray. By doing so, they are leaving it to their client to determine for themselves how they are different, and if that difference makes any difference to the results they produce versus their competitors. Sometimes, this is what happens. Other times, the client either doesn’t recognize the differences, doesn’t value the differences, or believes that there are no significant differences at all. In that case, the opportunity to differentiate yourself has mostly been lost.
If you’ve ever handed your price to your prospective client and had them tell you that your price is higher than your competitors without having already done the work to differentiate yourself and your offering, then you missed the opportunity to do so. What happens now is that you decide to differentiate your offering from your competitors late in the game. Because you are defensive about your pricing and your differentiation, what you say in the context of a price conversation is not part of a discussion around value and outcomes.
Instead of sounding like a proactive, value creating, potential partner, you sound like sour grapes. You look like you are negative by trying to differentiate your offering and defending your higher value, but only because your client suggested your price was too high compared to theirs. The time to have separated yourself and your offering was early in the process when it was in the context of differentiating before it was a price contest.
Reasonable minds may disagree on how or when you should speak about your competitors. For my money, it’s always better to say something nice about them and differentiation very early in the process to establish the differences in the investment and the differences in outcomes before there is a price conversation. There is nothing you can do about your competitor’s pricing, so there’s little reason not to speak about the investment in differentiation early in the process.
Recent research from gong points to this being a better and more successful strategy.