Competition

An artist can be honoured by exhibiting a "retrospective" of the work he or she had done. It is a way to get a sense of how the artist developed over time. It shows their thinking about their own work and their subjects.

Salespeople do not usually get such an honour. They and their managers tend never to look back. If they are off the back of success then the focus is on the next period's opportunities. If they have failed then the post mortem can be a painful process for all concerned. Post mortems are never a positive experience for the living.

Everyone can get value from a properly conducted post mortem or post-match analysis if you prefer.

Salesforce.com supports the capture of a lot of information out-of-the-box. The standard fields on opportunities includes competitors (as a related list). There is an opportunities with competitor report that lets a company review opportunities by the competitors that have been related to the opportunity with a list of the strengths/weaknesses that have been manually added to the opportunity by the owner or anyone involved in it with the rights to update the opp.

Salesforce.com customers use this report less than any other opportunity report. If you google top sales reports for salesforce.com you won't find it high on the list.

Salesforce.com Win/Lost Dashboard from custom fields.

Salesforce.com Win/Lost Dashboard from custom fields.

In the latest version of "Sample CRM Dashboards Winter '17" by salesforce.com it does not get a mention. Someone at salesforce.com did suggest in an earlier article ("6 Dashboards Every Sales Leader Needs", 1 August 2013) that it was a good idea to have a specific dashboard for competitive analysis. You can see a lot of the information in the screenshot but keep in mind that the competitor related list in salesforce.com does not show which competitor won or lost and does not have the ability to customise the information to show this. The article shows a competitive win/lost dashboard is based on having the information about which competitor won or lost. 

The "Opportunities with competitors" report is one of the least used reports by salesforce.com customers because there is are few people who bother to enter meaningful information against it - not the competitor and certainly not the strengths or weaknesses. Even if salespeople do use it and enter multiple competitors then they won't be able to select a front runner or if they lose to select which one they lost to from the competitors that they have related to the opportunity.

Is this a big deal? 

It depends on your market position. If you don't often lose to competitors then you can be complacent (for a while) about this information. If you are in a competitive market then it makes sense to be all over the analysis of who you are competing with and the intelligence that your sales organisation is gathering about them.

In my experience leaving this to the marketing department, even if they have a competitive analysis team, is a mistake. Salespeople can be much more connected to what the customer cares about when they are considering competitive offerings. Potential buyers will be blunt about it sometimes. A good competitive analysis team will want as much information as they can get from the sales team's interactions on a day-by-day basis. They will want to be able to see that information in salesforce.com.  Competitive Analysts will want to get ahead of the competition rather than wait for a crisis in revenue to identify the need for a response to particular competitor. This is especially true for international companies that will tend to only respond to global competitors rather than addressing niche competitors in particular markets.

Salesforce.com is the story of an irrelevant, small startup in the CRM market eating its competitors from the toes up. Competitors ignored it for too long and dismissed it after it could not be ignored and then finally conceded defeat with its traditional on-premise approach and joined salesforce.com in the cloud. Ignore your competitors at your peril! 

Is there always a competitor?

As a salesperson, in salesforce.com I never liked being forced by a sales methodology or mandatory field to ask a customer about the competition. It makes no sense to raise competitors as part of a discovery process because sometimes prospects are not seriously evaluating competitors. Salespeople who raise the idea make buyers feel like they should look at the competition more seriously. Prospects infer fear of the competition. Prospects more often have a preferred vendor. If you are that vendor it is better not to get yourself drawn into a conversation about competition. 

Other alternatives?

Customers often don't select a vendor after a sales cycle. Inertia is is the real competition. Salespeople should be more worried about this "Do nothing" outcome. "DIY" type solutions are the next most common outcome. For example they may change internal process or use other resources already available to fix the problem.

Customer will usually delay a decision to try these options first. Delayed decisions are the biggest reason for salespeople not to hit their numbers. Good salespeople will ask the question at the start of the sales cycle that a good CFO will ask at the end of it (before signing-off on budget): "what other alternatives have you considered?".

PipelineCheck suggests setting up a custom object to capture these "alternatives" and linking them as a related list to the opportunity object. There should be an option to select a leading alternative or even to rank alternatives. Marketing can then run reports to see which alternatives are coming up frequently or costing revenue e.g. the do-nothing option or built something internally or a specific competitor if that is what customers are saying. 

Implementing your own custom object is a better solution because it caters for the notion of "alternatives" better than the salesforce.com "competitor" related list. In any case, salesforce.com doesn't give the ability to add custom fields to the competitor related list on the opportunity (as of 20/3/2017). With "only" 106 votes for the idea is "under the threshold" to be implemented by salesforce.com so there is no way to identify the primary alternative/competitor using the "competitor" related list on its own.

Salespeople can be prompted to update the primary "alternative" if an opportunity is moved to "closed lost". 

The custom object for "alternatives" should also allow activity and attachments to be associated with it so that any salespeople who come up against an alternative can see previous intelligence gathered or approaches taken to steer prospects away from the alternative.

Alternatives with list of opportunities where they were considered and the outcome.

Alternatives with list of opportunities where they were considered and the outcome.

 

Use a lookup field on the opportunity for different alternatives (e.g. primary alternative and other alternatives. 

Alternatives listed on the opportunity page layout with feedback gathered from the prospect.

Alternatives listed on the opportunity page layout with feedback gathered from the prospect.

Create a validation rule that requires at least a primary alternative where the opportunity is changed to "Closed Lost".

Salespeople or competitive analysts can look at the "Alternatives Object" and see exactly what opportunities this alternative was considered by the salesperson/prospect to be the primary alternative.

 

PipelineCheck & Competitive Analysis

PipelineCheck analyses the competition by reviewing the effort salespeople have put into opportunities they have lost and then using that information to assess how severe the competition is. It is one thing to lose an opportunity after a quick call that determined there was a bad fit. It is a different thing entirely to have your 'head' handed to you on a plate by the competition after a twelve month sales cycle where you fought at every turn.

If you would like help improving the way you use salesforce.com to compete please let us know. We would be delighted to help.