If you’re in sales or marketing, one classic question you always come across is, “Why is your product better than your competition?” And one of the most boring yet common answers is a list of feature differences. Something like, “We have XYZ features, but the competition doesn’t have.”
First, let’s try to understand why prospects ask that question. They want to know if
- your product can solve their problem better than anyone
- your product is scalable
- your product offers the best value for money
- you can be their trusted business partner
In all four cases, they only want to know your strengths and weaknesses better.
How can you figure that out?
Focus on the alternatives
Alternatives are other ways your target audience is solving the problem today.
As April Dunford rightly says in her book “Obviously Awesome,” the most common competitive alternatives are spreadsheets and interns.
- If you’re selling a customer support software, the most common alternative is email
- If you’re selling a project management software, the most common alternative is spreadsheets
- If you’re selling a collaboration software, the most common alternative could be people sitting next to each other and talking while sharing files over email.
- And the worst but most likely alternative is ‘doing nothing‘ about a problem.
Always focus on why your product is better than the most common alternative people often rely on. That will help you understand
- your product’s true purpose — the ‘one’ reason why you entered the market though there was enough competition
- the biggest value your product can offer.
Slack doesn’t sell collaboration software. What they’re selling is ‘organizational transformation.’
We’re selling a reduction in information overload, relief from stress, and a new ability to extract the enormous value of hitherto useless corporate archives. We’re selling better organizations, better teams. That’s a good thing for people to buy and it is a much better thing for us to sell in the long run. We will be successful to the extent that we create better teams.Stewart Butterfield
CEO & Co-founder, Slack
If you focus less on the competition, and more on your product vision and how you want to transform the way people work, you’re likely to come up with more ideas. It will help create your own identity.
Play to your strengths
Sometimes you and your competitor exist for the same reason, to solve the same problem, and have similar features. And that’s okay.
In such cases, people make this common mistake of using subjective points like ‘intuitiveness‘ or ‘ease of use‘ of the product, to convince prospects. Unless you can show them the difference through a demo of both the products, they’re not going to believe you. That’s precisely why you should play to your strengths instead of trying hard to come up with feature differences.
Let’s say your competition has a fantastic product, and they’re an early entrant with a good market share. It’s going to be challenging to go against them unless your product can promise a better experience. Don’t claim that you’re better than them because of XYZ features.
Tell prospects why you’re different.
Be authentic. Sell your vision. Say it out loud. Keep repeating the story.
“<competition> is a great product that can solve < the problem>
for <target audience>. But what makes us different is
<your product’s purpose and vision>
<why should prospects care>
<how it can make their life easier and bring joy>.”
Drift’s webpage on how they’re different from Intercom is an excellent example.
Talking about features is not entirely wrong. But our primary objective is to narrate a story to help prospects understand the reason why we exist, and the value our product can add to make their lives better. Be authentic. Own your story. Strike an emotional chord first.
The prospect is the hero, and your product is the guide. Narrate a story on how the guide helps the hero become successful.
Once that’s done, you can talk about the feature differences, in the form of benefits.
For eg., don’t say we have a Salesforce integration but the competition doesn’t have it. Tell prospects what they can avoid by having a Salesforce integration, and how it can make their lives easier.
All prospects want is a reason to believe you’re good at what you’re doing. So don’t begin with feature differences and overwhelm them.
Start with selling a vision, and then move to features, if that’s necessary.
At the end of the day, people buy on emotion and justify with logic.
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