I struggled with this for a long time. I thought I could just come up with positioning statements and elegant research about strengths/weaknesses that Sales would weave seamlessly into conversations. I was so reluctant to write word-for-word scripts for Sales, mainly because I'd never had a Sales role myself, but also because I thought that was their job.
Now, I've changed my mind. Competitive positioning is a skill, and it takes precision and practice to do it well. We can push ourselves to be more prescriptive and specific with Sales, all the way to the level of *exact* word choice when they're positioning against the competition.
So, wanted to share my format for enabling Sales and compare notes with this community.
Here's how I coach Sales to respond when asked questions like, "we're also looking at [competitor], what makes you different?"
Validate: Don't rush into your arguments just yet. Confirm whether this competitive presence is real. The buyer may have only given them a quick look.
"Good to know, thanks. What have you seen from them so far? What about their solution caught your attention?"
Acknowledge: If the buyer seems to be truly considering this competitor, we need to acknowledge their strengths with a "from what I've seen" statement. This does a few things. First, you're not claiming to have all the facts - maybe the competitor has shared info with this buyer that we don't have. Second, it drops your buyer's guard by showing them that you see the same viable, competitive options that they do. Last, it shows that you are following the market just like them.
"From what I've seen, [competitor] has created some buzz in the market with their [new technology / marketing message / signature feature...]"
Reframe: Now we've earned the right to land our message. This moment must be concise, specific, and resilient. This should be a mantra that Sales can use across different competitive situations for the medium-term. It should be about your worldview and beliefs as a company, not features or services that differentiate you on paper. If you subscribe to Challenger Sale methods, this is your commercial insight / teachable.
"But, we think they're missing something. At [our company], we believe... [some market trend that will change everything... something that shows why the competitor is shortsighted or solving the wrong problem...]"
Show off: Our buyer's attention span is the scarce resource here, so you're almost out of time. Once that belief statement has landed, you get 1-2 product moments to prove it. These must be super visual and easy for anyone to demo (you lose if you have to call in your Sales Engineer for this part). You don't get to rip through 13 features that differentiate you. But since features come and go, this will be the most transitory part of the story, which Sales will often need to re-learn.
"I'd love to show you... [30-second product moment that backs up your belief]."
From there, I'll offer "add-on" messages for specific customer types (ex. how we differentiate on security for highly conscious buyers), but I really think that's all the time you get.
@Joe Booth has already made the argument against Harvey Balls/feature comparison charts... that style of messaging might be therapeutic for the marketers who create them but does nothing to make the buyer remember you and connect emotionally with your story.
How do you coach Sales on delivering positioning statements?