Decoding Sales

Episode 28: Dealing with the competition

May 31, 2022 Alex Allain
Decoding Sales
Episode 28: Dealing with the competition
Show Notes Transcript

Competition is a fact of life and business; in this episode, learn how to sell and win against your competitors.

* How to understand what the competition is saying about your weaknesses - and turn it to your favor
* Why understanding technology trends is crucial to winning deals against competitors
* How to credibly undermine the competition - without seeming petty
* Why and when it's OK to lose some deals
* How to stay authentic when you're trying to beat the other guys

This episode is sponsored by our friends at Salesroom who are building a video conferencing platform specifically for AE's and their buyers to build strong relationships in the virtual world. Built from the ground up specifically for sales interactions with video note-taking, real-time transcription and question detection, and AI-based recommendations, every feature of the platform is meant to help build rapport and trust. Salesroom is opening up access to their beta program. Go to salesroom.com to get early access!

Alex Allain:

Welcome to Decoding Sales, a podcast where an engineer, that's me, Alex, and a salesperson

Peter Ahn:

that's me, Peter

Alex Allain:

talk about the art and science of sales as it relates to life and business. In this episode, we are going to talk about the competition. We like to talk a lot about authentic selling and building relationships, but how do you do that when you're somebody else wooing the person you are going after, how do you position yourselves against them and build a relationship without coming off as aggressive or obnoxious while still navigating that dynamic? Peter has led a lot of deals where there is competition. So he's going to unbox and demystify for us, how to maintain an authentic sales process in the face of competition, how to navigate the competition and ultimately how to get that deal. So if you're a founder facing competitive bidding situations or a salesperson who wants to get some more insight into how to handle competition, this episode is for you. We're going to dive deep into Peter's experiences, dealing with competition real quick. But before we do that, we want to give a special shout out and thank you to our sponsors at Salesroom Salesroom is a platform designed from the ground up to support selling. It's the only video conferencing solution that helps sales breakthrough. Peter has been exploring it at Twingate. He's a big fan and we are really excited for their beta launch. So please go to their salesroom.com and sign up to be a beta user. Well, Peter, let's dive into this episode. I am so excited to hear about competition and how you deal with it. This is a fact of life, part of capitalism, part of free markets. It's good. It increases value to consumers, but it makes your job harder. I want to know Peter. How do you deal with competition? How does you, how do you not get your hackles up when you're dealing with them? And how do you keep building that authentic relationship with somebody when you're kind of under that like compete when your competitive juices are flowing?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. I think the mindset that I try to impart to my team and that I try and convey when I'm in prospect conversations, is that not every platform is good at everything. And even in the same industry, you're going to have your strengths and your weaknesses. And so I always approach the conversation thinking I need to first obviously be very clear about what we're good at as a technology, but also what we're bad at, because if you provide both sides of the coin and you're honest and objective about your capabilities, the good parts and the bad parts, it becomes a lot easier to sell, and it becomes a much more transparent sales process where, you know, in the ninth inning, you're not going to have surprise curve balls that come at you with things that you didn't divulge about your platform, right? Both on the good and bad side.

Alex Allain:

That sounds good in theory, because of course, if every product had its strengths and weaknesses, and it was the perfect match customer then you you'd want to line them up and just make sure you have a really good product. But presumably sometimes you're fighting competition where their product is, you know, kind of in the same niche, just as good for your customers, as your product would be. And it, you know, they could kind of go either way. How do you deal with that situation?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. I think even in that situation, there's always a reason why your prospects are coming to you and there's a specific pain point they're trying to solve. And so I think understanding how your solution can solve that pain point in a better way than the competition is something you have to get really good at, you know, in sales. And if you're selling, if you're selling your product. I think it comes down to you know, even in a situation let's say, hypothetically, you're mentioning, like it's almost apples to apples. There's still something, right. If it's not the same platform, there's still something that you have an edge on and you really have to double down on that. It can be one thing too, by the way. Right. And if it is one thing, you have to understand how high on the priority list, that one thing that you have an edge on ranks in your prospect's mind. And so it's a lot of asking questions, a lot of trying to figure it out. You know, why are you, why are we still having the conversation? If you're claiming as a buyer, that we're the same platform as the other, other one that you're evaluating. Because, because clearly there's something that we do better. And hopefully at that point, you know what that is, but if you don't, you need to ask, right. You need to say, Hey Alex, like, if it is indeed the case that we're the exact same feature set, then what is it that is still getting you to invest time with us. Right. If our pricing is higher than the competition, because there has to be something.

Alex Allain:

Well, I like that. So you're, you're sort of turning the question around and understanding why I love, why are we, why are we still talking?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, exactly. It's it's strip lining. Right? We, we talked about this in a previous episode, but if somebody is investing time with you and they mentioned that you're the exact same as two or three other platforms they've looked at. Then you have to ask the question, our pricing is higher and let's say, hypothetically, you know, we take like three or four more cycles to implement given that why is it that we're still investing time into this partnership?

Alex Allain:

Having been on the other side of some of these kinds of decisions, I mean, sometimes you need more than one platform to look at how do you deal with it when you're kind of the you're there? Because otherwise the decision matrix is incomplete.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. So, so if that's the case, first of all, um, I asked the question. Is that actually the situation is that the, are those dynamics at play. So it's a, Hey Alex, you know, some evaluations, sometimes we run evaluations because we're one of three and there have to be three platforms that you evaluate. Sometimes we're in evaluations because there's something that you really appreciated about the platform that you don't see in other platforms. So which bucket do we align in? I just want to make sure I set my expectations correctly. If it is a situation that we're one of three and you're just trying to hit a checkbox then your job, obviously isn't to just ask questions around why are we talking? Cause that answer has been given. It's more you trying to actually compare and sell against why you're different from the other two solutions. So it's not always just like strip lining or saying, why are you investing time with us? Obviously, there is some positioning also that you need to get into.

Alex Allain:

Yeah, let's talk about that. I feel like one of the things that is most interesting when we talk about competition is that counter positioning, right? Like the prospect is senior product. They don't buy it at a hundred percent and you're kind of there, you know, it's, it's, it's the salesperson who's selling steak knives. They knock on the door. Somebody answers. Doesn't they don't, they're not looking for steak knives. And then they end up with a $200 set of steak knives at the end of it. Take us in inside one of those deals, kinda unpack how you go from, third place out of three to first place.

Peter Ahn:

I'll give you a real life example. So we are selling an alternative to VPNs at Twingate that's rooted in this modern way of implementing what we call zero trust, security frameworks. And so typically we're actually you know, going up against traditional VPN players. And then also what we call cloud incumbents, folks that are not the traditional VPN players, but that have still been in the market for 20 years and are maybe more cloud focused and not hardware focused. So in, in situations where we're going up against competition, I like to actually. If they don't tell us exactly what type of solution they're looking at, or they don't give us the exact names of the companies are looking at I like to just say, Hey, there's like these three buckets of competition, the legacy players, the cloud incumbents, and the startups like us. The legacy players are hardware based. And so you're going to have inefficiencies that come from a single choke point of traffic going through one gateway. The cloud incumbents they're in the cloud. So they're supposedly more modern, but there's still a central choke point, which is their cloud infrastructure. So there's still a huge performance penalty on the end user, the startups that have been around for a couple of years, like we have claimed to have the most modern technology, but they don't have our DNA in terms of building something for the end user. So folks still complain about that modern technology because it's not usable. So, you know, like that, I know it felt like a long time, but that was essentially three minutes of addressing 60 to 70 different companies, because all the competitors we deal with are rooted in those buckets. And so after that, you know, and, and hopefully at that point, because you've bucketed and you're like educating almost on technology shifts. Hopefully you've set yourself up as a thought leader in the conversation you ask. Now, each of those players have their strong suits. You know, like the legacy players have a huge feature set because they've had 20, 30 years to build it, the cloud incumbents similar. And they might have more brand recognition because, you know, they're, they have like the multi, hundreds of thousands of user deployments. Us, we were born out of the COVID. So we're born out of a need that you are trying to solve today. So architecturally we're built in a very, very remote first remote centric world, but we don't have the huge list of features that the incumbents have. So if the feature set is important to you, we're not the right player. If the architecture, the performance usability, and the next five to 10 years of roadmap features is important then we should continue talking. And at that point, sometimes folks realize, you know, it's actually not reputation, reputation. It's not, I mean, reputation is always important, but I'm talking about like incumbent reputation. People realize maybe it's not that it's not, you know, being in the market for 40 years that's important. Peter's actually right. I do need to just make sure my users are happy with increased security posture from organization.

Alex Allain:

So, let me, let me just unpack what I think I hear you doing there. One by providing these buckets, you give a rubric or a framework for your prospects to evaluate the market, rather than them having their own, you know, kind of rubric that you don't control. So you, you, you sort of put yourself in a position to then set the frame for the conversation so you can differentiate yourself within that frame.

Peter Ahn:

That's a great way to put it.

Alex Allain:

The second thing I hear you doing is by creating these buckets, you really, rather than having to address, you know, name and rag on one of your competitors, you can point to that category. And so it lets you be a little bit, maybe more aggressive in critiquing the other competitors without seeming like you're talking bad about someone kind of behind their back

Peter Ahn:

yeah. I think that's a good way to put it now. I think the next obvious question and evolution of that conversation is folks might want to actually get specific into companies within those categories. And in those situations, for example, Zscaler is a major competitor of ours. I don't shy away from mentioning. But I do say yes zScaler is in that cloud incumbent category. And yes, there is a performance penalty to users because they're actually looking at all the traffic in their cloud environment. So there's this additional hop the traffic goes through and there are those limitations. Now they are the really good at traffic inspection, you know, because they're looking at everything so they can block users from uploading social security numbers. So they are good at that. So you see what I did there. Like I do bring in some negativity because it's an objective fact through user research interviews, we found a lot of folks try and circumvent some of the solutions that they have, because sometimes it doesn't operate in a performant fashion. But for certain companies performance, isn't the most important thing for certain companies. It's making sure you're inspecting every single packet so that you don't have a security breach. Right. So, Yeah. so that, that's how we, you know, lay out the positive and the negative of going with specific platforms as well.

Alex Allain:

Yeah. And let me just tell you what I'm kind of hearing happen there that I think is really powerful. One thing is the way that your using that frame you set earlier. So rather than just saying Z scaler is slow, which might be true, but seems very like, it's like the kind of thing you would say, obviously. You've put it into this context and frame again, that allows people to understand, oh, that's why it's slow. That makes sense. You're explaining to me the consequences of being in this bucket.

Peter Ahn:

Yes.

Alex Allain:

It's about Zscaler specifically, but it's also about their technical decision-making and how it works rather than somebody complaining about the product.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. And you know, the other thing I do, the, the subtle thing I do too, and it's all about phrasing and how you convey it: I try to use phrases like Z scaler can have heavy performance penalties or Z scalers can be slow when put in front of developer workflows. So I don't say it an absolute, right. I don't say like Zscaler is always slow because for some folks they might not even notice that it's slow. Actually there's tons of Zscaler users that don't feel that acute pain-point of their traffic being funneled through, you know, a central choke point in the cloud. Right. and and also like you can configure zScaler where it's highly performant too. It just might take like 20 people's times over three to four months to do it. So I think that's also the key is to understand, you might have a situation where somebody has deployed Z scaler and it works. But you have to also understand the work's fine has trade offs. And it's also highly dependent on who's actually consuming the product, which, which goes back to what I said in the beginning. Right? Like there's no one size fits all. Ever. And if you're looking for performance developer focused solution, I would pause when you're adopting Z scaler and I would run towards Twingate because we do really want developers love us Yeah. exactly. If you're looking for a solution that gives you lockdown capability, make sure PII isn't leaked, then there's like, almost like a CASB like solution then Twingate is definitely not the solution, right? Because we don't inspect traffic.

Alex Allain:

You know, and I think that what you're, one of the things is really powerful about talking about the strengths of your competitor is explaining why they exist. Right? Because if you're just saying negative things about a competitor, people are gonna be like, we'll put people, use them. So like, you probably lying to me, but what you're doing, you're saying first of all, they might have these weaknesses. It depends on the situation. So that opens it up and helps people understand that not everyone's going to have that. And then, okay. And then there's these reasons that might not apply to me where people would use this. So it, it makes it more clear what the positioning is and why your product isn't just doing a better job in hand-wavy terms, but in concrete terms. And also by knowing what its weaknesses are, knowing what that trade-off is to say yeah, and even if your product is better than Z scaler on these axes, people might still choose Zscaler for

Peter Ahn:

Of course, Of course.

Alex Allain:

That's, and that's fine because that means that if I don't care about those are the reasons I should actually pick you.

Peter Ahn:

Exactly. As long as we've been honest about our capabilities and the other side has a accurate depiction of what we do and don't do it's okay to lose deals. Right. It's actually fine. As long as you're opinionated on what you want to focus on, because by doing that and prioritizing, you can build a great business. You can't build a great business by trying to be everything to everyone. And I like what you said there too about, there's a reason why Zscaler exists, which is why also use the phrase Zscaler was born out of an era, or Cisco was born out of an era of X. Right. I mean, if you think about a Zscaler Netskope, I think about these companies are born out of the cloud era, right? Where all of a sudden you had all this data shifting into the cloud. So then everybody's trying to scramble to protect data in the cloud. Right. And the cloud is by definition everywhere. Right. And so that's why they have all these solutions and there's all these like heavy weight um, processes and workflows to try and protect that data for us. We weren't born out of the cloud era. We were born out of the remote work everywhere era, meaning that the cloud no longer is our perimeter. It's your device, right? So it's your laptop. It's your, it's your iPhone. And so what we decided to do is focus on device health, focus on direct connections to resources. So there's no central choke point because you could be in a coffee shop one moment and then, you know, you know, library the next. And so our architecture is very, very different. And if so, if you care about remote performance work, you shouldn't bet on the company that was born pre pandemic, where they didn't have to deal with remote work on a level that we're dealing with now. Right. But Zscaler's still very important because cloud is still very relevant. Right. You just need to weigh what's more important. Is it protecting data in the cloud and making sure nothing leaks out of the hundreds of cloud environments, your data is or is it performing like perform, performing very efficient security checks locally on a device, and then making sure your developers or biz ops folks, or whoever can get to the resources efficiently.

Alex Allain:

You know, this reminds me of the episode where we talked about the importance of salespeople being technologists. There's a lot of what you're talking about here is putting into the bigger picture, why a new paradigm for want of a better word might emerge. And that that's a really important, you talked in that episode about how important that was. For pitching the product, especially an early product where the roadmap is a key part of why somebody might buy it is that you're still working on these important features, but they have belief that you're going to get there.

Peter Ahn:

Exactly.

Alex Allain:

really, I think, tying it really nicely into the competitive piece where if you have that, that knowledge and that landscape understanding, not just for that relationship building and over the long-term, but also helping people understand, you know, why, why you're the one?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. exactly. You become much more credible. And I think if you understand the landscape, you become much more confident. And I think the confident delivery makes a huge impact, obviously when you're going up against competitors, because then what you need to think about is what is the other side saying about Twingate? You know, what is Zscaler saying about Twingate? What

Alex Allain:

That's exactly where I want to go next.

Peter Ahn:

yeah.

Alex Allain:

Your competitors are scumbags. I mean, I don't know about like, like just in general, right? You're always like your competitors are scumbags. Uh, just to be clear, if anyone from Zscaler is listening, uh, we're not talking about you. We're talking about the general concept of competitors. They're all going to lie about you. They're not going to be as nice as you are. And try to tell the truth and build an authentic relationship. So how do you handle that situation?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, I think the way that I handle the situation, first of all, is if I have a friendly prospect, I always ask what is the team saying about us and what is it like working with them? And they'll tell you actually, if they really want you to win, especially because right now we have underdog mentality, we're in an underdog situation. Right. We always have a chip on our shoulder. So I think buyers like to help the underdog and often what comes through is the competition will say, and, and it's, it's understandable why they'll say hey like this is a 60 person company. Are you going to bet part of your strategic security framework on a 60 person company that doesn't have the track record and credibility that we have?

Alex Allain:

That's a great question, by the way.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. Yeah. And I'll, I'll address it. And I'll tell you how I kind of worked through the situations like Hey, we have Levi's, you know, we have Procter and Gamble. We have General Electric. What does Twingate have? You know, they're an SMB focused company. So, you know, we think that, that you should work with us because we have this breadth and this track record of success also, by the way, it shows them their feature set too. Twingate doesn't have a lot of features. You go to their website. They're going to tell you they're working on roadmap items, but we all know roadmap items take a long time and a lot of what they have, we already have. Right. And we also have a big team, you know, as you could see, I brought six people to the call and, you know, I have my SVP, my CRO, you know, we have a big team that shows the maturity of the company. This is typically what happens if you're in a large company, you got to sell your resources and your feature set and your track record, you have to because you can't sell on oh, we were born out of the COVID era because that's just a flat out lie, you know, Zscaler I think was founded in the early two thousands. So you can't say you were born out of the remote work era. So how do I address that? If I'm Twingate I bring these things to the forefront, it's addressing the elephant in the room. I'll say you're going to hear Zscaler say, or you're going to see a, I don't even say Zscaler cause the more you mentioned a competitor, the more insecure you seem so might, unless they proactively bring it up, I'll say, Hey, you might hear other companies say that we don't have the feature set. You know, we don't have the track record. And to be honest with you, Alex, we are a baby gorilla right now. You know, we're the new kids on the block. We do think will be the 800 pound gorilla, but we're still building our platform, you know, so you have to be excited about working with the baby gorilla. That's going to grow. And I think there's a lot of benefits to that too, because as I mentioned, we're born out of this remote work era and we're device centric in a way that no other platform can be, but that's a determination you have to make. And it is a situation where you have to take a bet on us. I've already addressed what, what the team is bringing up to the buyer. So like being able to do that and think ahead of the objections that could come forth, I think is really, really important when you're working with competition.

Alex Allain:

I like the strategically revealing weaknesses strategy that you're sort of outlining here where you you put them on the table beforehand and just acknowledge.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, exactly. And you know, the, the team breadth situation. You know, I know you probably came off a call where you were with seven people from Zscaler, by the way, prospects have told me that that turns them off because it shows them how much work it takes to get something going. So I'll say, you know, like we're a little different, right? I'm not going to bring seven people to a call. I'm going to bring two or three because actually the product is really easy to set up just as I sold you on. I told you this takes very little time to set up, and this is proof that it's lightweight. Right. And everybody I bring to the call has a role. You know, I'm not just going to bring some people to the call who will to the call. And I say, why do I say that is because I've had enough folks who have been sold by competition who have told me I absolutely hate it. When sales teams bring eight people to the call, it makes me feel uncomfortable. And it just doesn't make me respect their way of working.

Alex Allain:

You didn't really address the 60 person startup angle here. Like how much do you really want to bet all your network security that a 60 person company has enough tech power to ensure that they're not going to get hacked.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah.

Alex Allain:

that?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. So that's a great thing to bring up. The way I talk about it is really talk about the people on the team. You know, and also obviously the technology, but I start with the people and I say, Hey, listen, I know we're 60 people, but I've been a part of, a lot of startups. And I haven't trusted the founding team like I do this team. We're not, you know, a bunch of college, new grads who are trying to build a company for the first time. We've been around the block. And so that's a big part of it. You know, and, and I'd encourage you to, and that's why we also bring Tony, Alex, like to calls too, just so that we can build that trust. And then the other side of it too, is that being said, we are still a new company, so we are willing to be as open as you'd like going under the hood on the technology to prove to you how we built in really solid infrastructure to ensure that, you know, we're not going to get hacked and that we're highly reliable. Now having said all of that at the end of the day, you still have to trust us. And this is a bet that you're taking, right. Because I can't guarantee it. But I think there's something inherently exciting working with a group of folks who are really going to take your feedback too, by the way, in a way that larger companies won't. There's this one moment where I'm at the final stage of negotiation a company, a CTO came to me and said, Hey, Peter, you know my neighbor, he works at Levi's and he uses Zscaler and he's telling me, like, I shouldn't bet my eggs on a 60 person company. I think at the time we were like 30 people actually. And what I said was, Hey, uh, I won't name the person. I said like, you know, Hey, Mr. CTO, you're not a Levi's though. You're 300 person health tech company. To us being a 30 person company, a 300 person health tech company, especially with the innovation your team has shown is really important to us. And so we're actually going to build this with you. I'm not sure that Zscaler is going to have that same lens and Levi's is, and it is a very different company than your company. They probably definitely get, you know, maybe some say when it comes to Zscaler building that. But we want to give you that same sort of an even better white glove treatment and you'll get it because we're hungrier for the business.

Alex Allain:

So I notice a pattern that you're using, which is start with a strength, reveal the weakness, close with an alternative strength in another category. Is that kind of an intentional frame that you're using?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, You know, it's so interesting. You frame it that way. I think it is, you know, it's almost, it's a compliment sandwich, but it's a strength and weakness sandwich. Right. You start with the strength, bring in what the weakness and end with the strength.

Alex Allain:

Yeah, I really liked that. It sort of like diverts the conversation at the end, away from the weakness while it's there. You know, it's been said, sometimes you have to say things just they've been put on the table. But you're not dwelling on it.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah.

Alex Allain:

interesting close.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. And the close I think, I don't know if you feel this, but the close is also urging decision, It's like, Hey, you understand the strength, you understand the weakness. And both are very material strengths And weaknesses, by the way, you can't just say a weakness that's not really a weakness right. And then it's like, based off of that information, Alex, you're still gonna have to take a risk. Is this a risk worth taking? And it kind of, I think builds a little bit of excitement in the conversation too, because you're basically telling the buyer that, Hey, you're in a risky situation. And I, I think that is inherently really exciting to human beings. You know, like I think that, um, obviously not everybody's risk loving, but I think everybody likes to have an element of risk in the decisions they make, because it makes it feel more impactful in my opinion.

Alex Allain:

Well, and, you know, people don't want to be sitting in that conversation feeling. I'm a loser who can't take a little bit of risk. Yeah. You know, one, I really liked that. So just to codify the whole strategy, it's like start with a strength that addresses a concern, acknowledge the concern is real. And if there's a risk, take a strength, that's adjacent. That's kind of the flip side of that risk. You know, you're small. That means you're nimble and lean into that. So you redirect the conversation in that direction and then raise the stakes a little bit up the excitement up the, up the decision-making moment a bit and see if somebody tests somebody to see if they're comfortable making that trade.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And then also just always be logical, right. And objective. You know, that, that situation where the CTO brought up Levi's I just took a step back and I was like, why is this person talking about Levis? You know, when, when I'm buying software, I'm not gonna say I'm a 60 person company. Right. And I want to buy sales software. I'm not going to say, let me buy all the sales software that Bank of America has, even though it's a notable brand. Right. And so just, it would take a step back and make sure you're really fitting the solution in a way that is custom to the person you're talking to. And if they throw, you know, if they throw food at you, that's likely coming from the sales team, then you got to think about why the sales team is using Levi's as a logo. And I understand it's a sales tactic, not actually something that is going to be beneficial for the prospect you're selling.

Alex Allain:

I do feel like so much of these conversations you're actually in dialogue with the other company through someone. And I'm wondering, and a lot of the tactics you're talking about are ways to pre-but or rebut without knowing exactly what was said. And you, you talked before a little bit about how to get some of that information, but if somebody has like a pretty small startup that maybe isn't on the radar of even the competition, they might not be directly the competition may not be attacking them, but the competition is certainly selling against they're against them in a general sense. Like how do you, how do you get that intel?

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. it's hard. Yeah. It's really hard to get that intel. Um, which is why I know I already mentioned this, but which is why I like to ask the buyer, which is why I spend so much time building rapport too, because the more rapport you build, the more behind the curtain look that the buyer will, will give you. And then in a situation where you don't build that rapport, or they're a little bit cagey, you have to be really like good at, I think predicting what the other side is saying and taking some risks too. Speaking of risks on what the other side might be saying about you and almost trying to bring the competition in the room with you. Right. I think that is also what I'm trying to do is I'm almost trying to maybe simulate what you're mentioning is like having that person in the room. Cause I'm almost saying the same things. I think they're going to say. And I think like psychologically it presents a more balanced feeling to the buyer. And I think buyers like to buy from folks that are objective and not subjective.

Alex Allain:

Well that really appeals to this engineering mindset.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. The other thing too, by the way, Alex is. A lot of these companies have public I mean, all of them have public sites. And so I would tell sellers, like, don't be afraid to go to their site. Let's say like, you're selling against a startup. You've never heard of, you know, don't just in the moment pitching against them and predicting things cause that's going to put you in hot water. You know, say actually I haven't heard of them. Let me go to their website and then you can start scanning like what their positioning is. And you can also ask some questions. Hey, it looks like they focus a lot on this dashboard. It looks really cool, actually, we don't have that but is that like part of what you're trying to buy, you know, and like, you're, you're going, like you're being really cerebral and you're showing the buyer that you appreciate things about your competition, even if it's at a surface level and you're trying to figure out what about the competition is appealing. And so I, I do this a lot. Like I'll go to sites and like, if somebody is really interested in a specific feature for us, and I don't see that on the site, I'll be like, hey, I don't see a lot of the easy deployment that you said you've really liked for our platform. You know? And that's like, I think like a really good advanced trick you can pull in, but obviously. Uh, obviously takes a little bit of, um, maneuvering and off-roading capabilities, but, you know, we have the web at our fingertips for a reason so that you can search things right. And you're not going to be able to know everything about your competition, especially if there's like 60 of them.

Alex Allain:

So we've talked a lot about how to shadow box with someone who's not in the room, how to strategically reveal weaknesses, how to position yourself and create the frame for the buyer. At the end of the day, a lot of this has to also be kind of emotional and dealing with a sense of ambiguity, dealing with some risk, knowing that there's somebody talking about your work and also building the same relationship or trying to with the prospect. So how do you navigate that sort of, you know, dating they're dating two people or three people at work.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. Yeah. Like how do I deal with the prospect dating two or three people?

Alex Allain:

Exactly.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. I think the way that I deal with it is, um, as I mentioned throughout, is to try and address the elephant in the room, which is the biggest elephant in the room is where do we stand? Right. So you've already told me, you're looking at multiple vendors. I've told You how we stopped. And you've told me some of your priorities and it feels like, you know, we're in alignment, but I don't want to be presumptuous, I guess, if I'm to ask right now, which way are you leaning? You know, are we one, two or three? Cause you said there's three platforms. And I just asked that because I just want to make sure, obviously I'm passionate about Twingate, but I just want to make sure I'm setting my expectations correctly as well. So are you able to share, you know, where we are in terms of the priorities. That's how I deal with that. And you mentioned like, how do you deal with this like dating situation? It is very similar to dating, you know, if I'm, if I like somebody and they're dating a bunch of people, I'd want to know kind of where I stand, right. Because if, if there's no interest, I'm not going to waste my time with another date. And it's similar with technology. If we're number three, I think it's really, really hard to get to number one, unless there's something very compelling. So when my sales engineer asked me, Hey, there's five things we're trying to work on together what's the highest priority I'm going to double down on the priority that is going on on the deal and the opportunity where we're ahead, you know, obviously deal size like company brand, all that is important. But at the end of the day, you know, I want to work with folks who I know are on the same wavelength and in the early going, if folks aren't on the same wavelength, it's hard to shift somebody's mindset, right? It's hard to change somebody I'm not going to overnight, regardless of how amazing the product is. I'll say I'm not going to change a person from risk averse to risk loving when it comes to technology buying behavior. And.

Alex Allain:

You just got to get them infected with toxoplasmosis.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, exactly. But now if there's like five people on his team that are all risk loving and that person's only person who's risk averse. So maybe there's a chance. Right. But you get my point. It's like, you know, I think it's important just to say, Hey, where do we stand? And constantly ask that.

Alex Allain:

That makes a ton of sense. I feel like if now that I know this, if I am ever a prospect that gets asked this question and be like your number two. It seems like the strategically optimal thing to do as a prospect is make every person feel like they're, they're not out of the running, but they're not winning. So they really need to work hard for the deal.

Peter Ahn:

That's a good point. That's a good point. Yeah. Yeah. Not, not all buyers are as sophisticated as you, and I think it's easier to be honest than it is to, you know, like optimize.

Alex Allain:

Yeah. I mean, honestly, I probably wouldn't do that cause it seems like kind of a jerk move.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah. Yeah,

Alex Allain:

you know, I guess I'm just curious, like it doesn't, it doesn't sound like people actually play that game very much.

Peter Ahn:

No, actually I think people do actually play that game, and sometimes that might genuinely be the case. Right. So if you're a number two, if somebody says, I will say like, oh, is there anything that we can do? What will get us to number one? And are we number two, as in, like, we probably won't win the business because of some showstoppers and some deal-breakers or are there things that can help the cause? How, how far off are we? So you keep like drilling down, right? And like, it's still the Same question, right? It's like, where are.

Alex Allain:

The same strategy that we talked about many episodes ago when dealing with somebody saying, like, talking about what's process for closing a deal and they're like, I got it. And you're like, just ask some more questions, understand a little bit more about it. Kind of call, call the BS. You're doing the same thing here. You're kind of probing in using questions to understand what's the real... What it means to be number two, it's much harder to make up worries about, about that than to just vaguely say. Yeah, kind of in the running, you know.

Peter Ahn:

Yeah, exactly. You got to get like surgical, you know, it's like, I always use that term surgical. I'm sure I've used it on this podcast too. It's like, there's more to dig into, you know, it's such a complex decision-making process, usually with software. So you want to have your questions reflect that. You know, which is why like software, like gong, you know, they have like this question rate staff, you know, and like the best sellers are question rate is off the hook. They're asking a ton of questions.

Alex Allain:

All right. We'll put her, we've talked a lot about competition. We talked a lot about winning the deal. And on that note, I think you have some more competitors to go crush so the Twingate can hit its numbers. And so we're going to wrap it up. We'd like to say, thank you again to our sponsors at Salesroom, they are building the new video platform for sales built for sellers and you can be one of their beta customers. Check them out at salesroom.com. Tell them we sent you. Finally, if you are a new listener, please subscribe or a longtime listener, we would love it if you would rate us on apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts and don't keep us a secret. If you have any feedback, email us at podcasters@decodingsalespodcast.com.