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Companies that consistently gather information about opportunity competitors outperform those that don’t.

A no brainer, right? If you understand how your rivals compete then you increase your chances of winning against them.

But here’s what I’ve found in my experience.

Most businesses are quite poor at using salesforce to track competitors on opportunities.

And yet the benefits are significant. They include the ability to:

  • Qualify opportunities based on historic success against competitors.
  • Tailor your sales approach based on the competitors on each deal.
  • Consistently increase win rates by learning what worked and what didn’t.

But there’s one other major benefit.

The act of recording competitor information in itself increases the chances of a successful outcome. It encourages sales people to think about their approach. Facilitates thought and discussion about the best way to approach each sales opportunity. Often surfacing unconscious information.

Achieving these benefits means gathering information about individual competitors on each opportunity. Here are 5 ways you can do that:

  1. Use the standard opportunity competitor functionality.
  2. Use a Reasons Lost and Lost To Picklists.
  3. Link competitor Accounts to Opportunities.
  4. Use a custom Competitor object.
  5. Use the GSP Competitor custom solution.

Not all of these options are mutually exclusive. Let’s explain each one and understand when it is appropriate.

1. Standard salesforce competitor tracking function

A good solution if:

  • You need a solution today. (Competitors may already be on your page layout).
  • Reporting on won / lost deals against competitors isn’t too important. You simply need a way for sales people to capture the competitors involved in a deal.

This feature hasn’t changed much in the 13 years that I’ve been implementing salesforce.

It allows basic information to be captured about the competitors on each opportunity.

If you haven’t modified your opportunity page layouts then the chances are the Competitor Related List is already visible to your users. Here’s what it looks like on the Opportunity page without any Competitor information added:

Opportunity with no competitors being tracked.

Clicking the new Button allows competitor information to be added:

Click new competitor to add a new rival to the competitor.

Competitors are manually entered by users. The lookup icon (immediately to the right of the Competitor Name) can be customized so that users can select from a predetermined list. Here’s an example of what we mean:

Add competitor from predetermined list.

The page can’t be customized in any way so you’re limited to the Strengths and Weaknesses fields that you see above.

Here’s what the layout looks like with some competitor information added:

Three competitors have been added to this opportunity using the standard salesforce funtionality.

The function is simple and easy to use. One drawback is that unless users consistently select competitors from the predetermined list or enter the same name for each competitor, then the quality of reports is reduced.

Dashboard chart that shows the number of times we have competed against each competitor.

For example, the report above shows the number of times we’ve been up against each competitor. GenePoint has been entered in several different ways which detracts from the value of the report.

It’s also not possible to record which competitor won the opportunity. We would therefore need separate charts to show our win / loss ratios against each competitor.

2. Reasons Lost picklist

A good solution if:

  • You need basic information on which competitor won a deal and why it was lost.
  • You use the solution in conjunction with the standard competitor functionality.
  • Users can be persuaded to enter the true reason why a deal is lost. In very many cases sales people enter ‘Price’ for the Reason Lost. That’s not always the reason in my experience!

This is the solution most commonly implemented by businesses that want to track competitors in salesforce. It can be used in parallel with the standard competitor tracking function described above.

There are various ways to implement this option. In essence it’s a way to capture additional information when a deal is lost. (The same approach can be used for Won deals).

Fields on the opportunity capture information about competitors.

In our example, when an Opportunity Stage is set to Lost, picklist and text fields are used to record more information. This includes the name of the winning company and reasons why the deal was lost (both picklist fields). A text field is also used to capture supplementary information.

The approach means that a variety of management reports can be created. For example here we can see the competitors to whom we’ve lost deals and the reason why.

Dashboard chart that shows the competitors we have lost to and the reasons why.

A validation rule can ensure the fields are completed when users set the opportunity to Closed Lost. A similar combination of fields can be used to record information on why a deal was won.

Bear in mind though that there’s no way to record multiple competitors on an opportunity this way. It’s therefore a good option if you’re using the standard competitor function to record involvement.

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3. Link Competitor Accounts to Opportunities using Partner Roles

A good solution if:

  • Multiple Accounts (not just competitors) play a role on many opportunities.
  • Management reporting on competitor involvement in opportunities is important.

In this approach each competitor is created as an Account in salesforce. The competitor Accounts are then linked to relevant Opportunities.

Storing competitors as Accounts isn’t as crazy as it sounds. They are, after all, companies. And those companies have Contacts and other data that you may want to record about competitors. It also means no significant configuration of the system is required in order to capture competitor information.

Competitors are usually identified through the Type field on the Account or have their own Record Type.

The linking between the competitor Account and the Opportunity is done using the Partner Roles feature. This is a standard function that allows the role played by one or more Accounts on an opportunity to be specified. These ‘role’ values can be modified to include Competitor.

Companies that use this approach often re-name the Partner function to Account Roles or Competitors.

For example, on this Opportunity we can see two Competitors and two other businesses playing a role on the opportunity.

Accounts playing different roles on an opportunity.

From the opportunity, when users click New Account Role or Competitor. They ‘lookup’ to an actual Account rather than entering text for the name of the partner. The role played by the Account on the opportunity is also specified.

Edit roles played by Accounts on opportunities.

This means that the feature can be used to capture information about a variety of companies that might be playing a role on the opportunity.

Some readers might baulk at the idea of creating competitors as Accounts. If competitors are stored as Accounts then what about the risk of accidentally emailing competitor contacts?

The way to avoid this risk is to check the Email Opt Out box on all Contacts associated with the Account. If you have salesforce Enterprise Edition or access to workflow rules then this process can be automated to eliminate the accidental-email risk.

This approach significantly improves reporting compared to the standard competitor tracking feature. However there’s no way to capture the specific strengths / weaknesses of each competitor in relation to the opportunity. This is because the page layout in which the Account is selected and the role specified cannot be modified.

As with the standard competitor tracking function this option can be combined with picklists or text fields on the opportunity to capture information when the deal is won or lost.

4. Custom object to record competitor involvement

A good solution if:

  • You have a relatively small number of major opportunities in which it’s important to understand and evaluate competitor positions.
  • It’s important to capture both quantitative and qualitative information about competitors.
  • There are lessons to be learned from each opportunity that will improve win rates going forward.
  • Reporting on competitor involvement is important.

In this solution each competitor is also created as an Account. However a custom object (“Competitors”) is used to store a variety of information about the competitor’s role on an opportunity.

This information might include competitor strengths and weaknesses, whether the competitor is an incumbent supplier, your strategy for competing against the competitor and lessons learned about the outcome.

Here’s an example:

Custom object to capture information about the competitor on an opportunity.

Multiple competitor records can be stored on one opportunity.

Opportunity with thee custom object records to store competitor involvement.

Using a custom object gives considerable flexibility over the additional information that is recorded about each competitor on the deal. For example, the Deal Winner checkbox also shows which competitor won the deal (assuming it wasn’t you!).

The means we can report more deeply on performance. In this case, for example, determine how we fair when competing against the incumbent supplier.

The solution requires some configuration including the creation of a custom object. However it provides more powerful insight into the involvement of competitors on opportunities.

5. Custom GSP solution for tracking competitors

A good solution if:

  • The flexibility of the custom object solution (option 4) meets your competitor tracking needs.
  • You want to make it simple for sales people to add competitor information to opportunities.

Here’s a variation on option 4 that makes it easier for users to add and edit information about competitor involvement on the opportunity.

In option 4 the user creates each competitor involvement record by clicking the ‘New’ button every time.

The custom solution uses a Visualforce page to create and add the new records. This means users can enter or update all the competitor information from within a single page.

Custom solution for tracking competitors on an opportunity.

This improves the usability of the solution by making it quick and easy for sales people to add competitor information to opportunities.

Tracking competitors on opportunities is a sure-fire way to improve win rates. It means that both the sales strategy and the approach taken on individual opportunities can be continuously improved. And that means upward growth in revenue compared to the competition.

To see how competitor tracking can work in your business simply get in touch to arrange a customized demo of any of the options described in this article.

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