The tech win is the biggest factor. This is often achieved through a proof of concept (POC) where you can prove your product works as advertised. This is very common in the software space. In some cases you can charge a small amount of money for this but it’s become pretty standard for POCs to be free of charge so long as the prospect agrees to a specific set of outcomes or scope and is limited to a period of time; typically 30 days but this can vary depending on your solution.
The POC scope is the opportunity to do two things. The first is to ensure you’re in alignment with the goals and objectives of your prospect; this also allows you to validate your business case when it comes time to negotiate the contract. The second is to ensure you’ve included differentiators you know are unique to you and your competitor cannot match. Several years ago, I took this path with one of the largest daily betting companies in the market. We outlined 7 specific success criteria in the scope where I knew at least 2 of those criteria my direct competitor could not match; taking a chapter out of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of Way” where you know your competitor better than they know themselves. Sure enough, when the rubber met the road we validated all 7 items and our competitor failed where we knew they would which ultimately led to the tech win and a monster initial contract that grew over time. Be careful not to overdo it here though, if the pendulum swings too much in your favor an executive or someone in procurement might call a foul for favoritism.
Asking permission was an approach I took with one of the largest and coincidentally oldest retailers in the US. Funny enough, this entire deal was accomplished via power-point; no POC was completed. Our prospect met with both us and our competitor several times over many months. At first glance, it seemed like both companies were similar and our Champion was having trouble understanding what made us different. One of our power users even approached me and said “you’re about to lose this deal.” When I asked what to do he suggested I reach out to our Champion, who was the ultimate decision maker, and ask permission to be brutally honest and blunt about the shortcomings of our competitor. So, I did just that. I didn’t hold back, I laid out the good, the bad and doubled down on the ugly. I might have crossed the line once or twice but hey, I asked permission and he granted it! What amazed me was at the conclusion of this meeting he thanked me for my candor and said I gave him a lot to think about. Within a week he gave me the verbal win and within that month we had a signed six-figure, multi-year contract. The icing on the cake was we even charged about 40% more than our competitor was offering.
In summary, the sure-fire way to win over your competition is to validate your solution through some type of proof of concept so you can prove to your prospect the product works as advertised. When you do that, be sure to insert a few landmines you know your competitor cannot deliver on. If you can’t do that, or are still battling after the tech win, develop a strong enough relationship so you can ask permission to be brutally open and honest as to why you should be the partner of choice. If you do those things, you’ll feel like Rocky Balboa after he knocked out Ivan Drago in Rocky IV….or at least I do anyway!