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Using Evernote to track your competitors

Research your competitors with Evernote

Research your competitors with Evernote

I saw this great post by Joshua Zerkel on the Evernote blog and wanted to share it with you. We’ve looked at using Evernote for prospecting but, of course, there are many other things that you can use it for and tracking your competitors is an ideal task. As Joshua outlines, Evernote also makes it easy to share your research with your coworkers. It’s no use if you have great information on your rivals but keep it to yourself.

It’s great to understand your competitors and what they are up to, but remember to be very careful about knocking your competitors when dealing with your customers. It can easily backfire on you.

When you have insight into your prospects and competitors, you’re able to make better decisions. Since Evernote lets you collect many different types of information, it’s an ideal tool for capturing business research.

Read up on prospects. When you’re going into meetings and sales calls, it’s helpful to have background information on the individuals you’re meeting with and the companies they work for. Using the Evernote Web Clipper, capture industry information and recent news about your prospects in Evernote. If they’ve sent you white papers, reports, RFPs/RFQs, or other data, store those in Evernote as well. To keep things organized, tag notes with the prospect’s name or put them in a notebook for that prospect. As you prepare for a meeting, you can quickly refer back to the notes you’ve collected.

Keep an eye on the competition. No business operates in a vacuum. Chances are there are multiple players in your industry, and even if they’re not direct competitors, it never hurts to keep an eye on what they’re up to. Again, use the Web Clipper to capture press mentions, relevant blog posts, and articles about what companies in your industry are doing. If your competitors are using email marketing for newsletters or updates, forward the messages they send to your email-to-Evernote address to keep them permanently.

Review the notes you’ve collected as you’re planning what’s next for your business.

Know what your team knows. If you work on a team and have multiple people who perform research, create a Shared Notebook so everyone can contribute in an organized way. Evernote Business can help your team further leverage each other’s efforts. For instance, as you’re clipping articles about a prospect, you’ll automatically see Related Notes your colleagues have previously collected about them. The same is true for researching competitors.

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I hear you knocking…

I hear you knocking…
Most sales trainers advise you not to knock the competition and in general that’s very wise advice. Early in my career I’m embarrassed to admit that I ignored it (as most inexperienced sales people do) and came a cropper. I was competing for a good size deal and from previous experience thought that the person I was competing with had questionable ethics. When it came down the final two I couldn’t help but slip this into a conversation with the customer… I thought I was doing her a real favour. As it turned out the customer knew my competitor personally. I didn’t get the order and also had a very embarrassing conversation the next time I bumped into my competitor, who had been told about my opinion of him.
So that you don’t have to learn the hard way like me, here are three problems that arise from knocking the competition…
* It reflects badly on you and can be seen as “dirty tricks”.
* You may actually raise the profile of the competitor in the eyes of your customer. For instance if all of your product comparisons are against one particular competitor you are as good as saying “these are the guys we worry about at night”.
* You open a can of worms. The customer may be enthusiastic about your comparison with the competition and start asking you how you compare on other features that aren’t so favourable to you.
However we all know that sometimes the customer will ask you how you stack up against a competitor. Or your competitor may have “knocked” you… and the customer wants to know if their facts are correct. So if you must talk about the competition…
1. Make any comparisons generic rather than specific to the competitor. So you might say “our new flanged widget offers a 20% speed increase and 10% downtime reduction compared to older unflanged designs”. This way you are seen to be making a general point and as even-handed.
2. If you are forced to comment in a one-to-one way about a competitors product talk about your features, advantages and benefits not the competitor’s short-comings. This way you are more likely to come out of it smelling of roses. Also if you try and comment on your competitor’s features you may be wrong (you haven’t been trained on them after all) and you could look foolish.
So, as ever, put your brain into gear before you your mouth goes into action. It’s tempting to take a cheap shot, especially when you think you are helping the customer but better to take the high ground.
Knocking the competition

Most sales trainers advise you not to knock the competition and in general that’s very wise advice. Early in my career I’m embarrassed to admit that I ignored it (as most inexperienced sales people do) and came a cropper. I was competing for a good size deal and from previous experience thought that the person I was competing with had questionable ethics. When it came down the final two I couldn’t help but slip this into a conversation with the customer… I thought I was doing her a real favour. As it turned out the customer knew my competitor personally. I didn’t get the order and also had a very embarrassing conversation the next time I bumped into my competitor, who had been told about my opinion of him.

So that you don’t have to learn the hard way like me, here are three problems that arise from knocking the competition…

  • It reflects badly on you and can be seen as “dirty tricks”.
  • You may actually raise the profile of the competitor in the eyes of your customer. For instance if all of your product comparisons are against one particular competitor you are as good as saying “these are the guys we worry about at night”.
  • You open a can of worms. The customer may be enthusiastic about your comparison with the competition and start asking you how you compare on other features that aren’t so favourable to you.

However we all know that sometimes the customer will ask you how you stack up against a competitor. Or your competitor may have “knocked” you… and the customer wants to know if their facts are correct. So if you must talk about the competition…

  1. Make any comparisons generic rather than specific to the competitor. So you might say “our new flanged widget offers a 20% speed increase and 10% downtime reduction compared to older unflanged designs”. This way you are seen to be making a general point and as even-handed.
  2. If you are forced to comment in a one-to-one way on a competitors product, talk about your features, advantages and benefits not the competitor’s short-comings. This way you are more likely to come out of it smelling of roses. Also if you try and comment on your competitor’s features you may be wrong (you haven’t been trained on them after all) and end up looking foolish.

So, as ever, engage your brain before putting your mouth into gear. It’s tempting to take a cheap shot, especially when you think you are helping the customer but better to take the high ground.

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