Try it out in the comments. Go undisclosed and make some specific criticisms of competitors. We'll give feedback.
Manufacturers Don't Want to 'Bad Mouth' The Competion
Sure, you do not want to be the like the Avigilon sales guy who said all his competitors 'suck'.
Not convincing and you look bad.
However, that does not mean you should not criticize your competitors at all. There is a right way to do it.
As an end user I have never had anyone unwilling to criticize competitors when discussing issues with me. It often goes, " I don't want to talk bad about XYZ company, but....." and then the flood gates open.
I don't want to talk bad about XYZ company, but....."
Yes, you know it's coming.
And you know the company's really gonna get beat up if the sales guy starts with a compliment:
I'll be the first tell you XYZ is good at what they do, very good. Unfortunely what they do is nothing anyone actually wants...
When somebody asks me "What do you think about product X of Company X?" I try to avoid simple criticism. Usually it sounds like "Product X is good at 1/2 but in our product we have added 3/4 to 1/2 that makes it more reliable/convenient etc. " or if I have info on the customer project - "It can be used for your project but note that in your case you will need 1/2/3 and the Product X has issues/flaws with 2/3 that can make your project more expensive/complex etc." It can be subjective (it is always subjective) but has to be honest and if it is possible be based on facts.
That's an interesting topic you raise. A lot of higher priced, premium brand camera manufacturers will respond with 'but our quality is higher'.
I always push there but I rarely get good details that actually explains what specific dimension of quality is higher. So camera manufacturers, please tell!
It should be easy: better components, high grade materials, own factory, high level of quality control etc. Even if a company use re-branded cameras from known OEM manufacturer they can create an additional stage of quality control and use it as a differentiator.
Sure, but when they say that, I respond: "What specific components? What materials? What specific quality controls?"
Then I mostly get blank spares and dumb looks.
Chipsets make a lot of difference. Some manufacturers use BlueRay chipsets, while others use standard chips....makes a difference in quality of the image and compression. The bubble/glass itself on a dome camera makes a lot of difference. Why use a 4k chipset but then couple that with standard 5MP glass....that's still 5MP. A true manufacturer will have capabilities for there own lenses. And dehumidification devices....some of the "manufacturers" will put a silica gel capsule in their cameras....the same kind that you find in your food or medicine bottles and they need to be replaced every year or they stop working. That seems like a good start, but there is lots more that becomes brand specific.
Saying "I don't want to criticize my competitors" is code for "I don't have any compelling differentiators."
I can give you an example of a premium brand of cameras that uses components that all have an MTBF of 100,000 hours which some of the better sales people use as a differentiator... does that meet your criteria? And yes it is an actual manufacturer...
uses components that all have an MTBF of 100,000 hours
What is the MTBF of their top competitor's components? What are the specific components with an MTBF of 100,000?
It's just hard to compare / analyze without more data. Otherwise, it's just puffery, some people may feel good about it but it cannot be analyzed with just that.
John, because of your role as press/media, manufacturers are much less likely to speak openly about competitors to you, without clear assurances they are not going to get involved in a public back-and-forth, even if the sources of the info are kept anonymous.
When it comes down to face-to-face discussions with sales prospects, there is no hesitation to really press on the differentiation between products.
But even then, you will lose credibility with some people if you are just highlighting negative information about alternate products (even if they are verifiable facts) if they don't directly relate to the conversation about meeting the customer's needs.
If a customer isn't interested in how many MPG a car gets, the sales guy criticizing how poor the MPG is on his competitor's cars (even if true) doesn't help his chances and may hurt them.
When it comes down to face-to-face discussions with sales prospects, there is no hesitation to really press on the differentiation between products.
I have seen some of that but usually it is super unsophisticated / laughable.
My other theory is that most manufacturer employees are shockingly ignorant on their competitors. We have talked to at least a dozen senior people at camera manufacturers in the past year who do not understand even the basics of smart codecs. It is absurd. One famous executive at ISC West knocked Hikvision H.264+ to me, not understanding how it actually worked...
So, yes, better off to say nothing than get smoked by someone who knows more than you.
My other theory is that most manufacturer employees are shockingly ignorant on their competitors.
So true. When my competitors would tell an end user my VMS wouldn't do "X", then I showed it to them, I immediately had the upper hand because they knew they'd either been lied to or were dealing with an incompetent sales person. Often, I knew more about my competition than some of their reps knew about their own product, which made it even easier to win.
But still, never discuss any of this in a negative light...it's always a "different approach" or "design philosophy".
Here's one more thought on this:
In auto racing you will often see two cars in the pack who are fighting for position. To defend against being passed the lead driver must take less optimal lines through corners. He can successfully defend this way but ultimately both cars lose ground to the rest of the pack.
Especially when it comes to talking to the media/press negatively about competitors, I may put some ground between me and that competitor, but depending on how they respond, we may drag each other down.
I agree with stating facts, I just state the facts of what other competitors do and how we differentiate. I rarely speak derogatory and sometimes even sprinkle praise in there of the competitors.:
- ADI is real convenient to buy from, I agree, but we have a different business model then simply flipping products. Rather than ask you to contact the manufacturer for support of your products, we have a dedicated staff of in-house techs that can help answer any of your questions. We firmly believe that if we are going to stock a particular product, we should know that product inside and out. We have even gone so far as to make all of our own video guides and manuals on our website, because we just weren't satisfied with the manufacturers manuals. I'd even risk to say that we may be better at support than the actual manufacturer itself. Not to mention, if you have a large job and you need indepth analysis on how to speck that particular job out, we have a tech oriented sales staff that is specifically trained on how to do that, we can spend as long as you need to get this nailed down to the perfect products for your scenario
- Hey I dont blame you if you want to buy that on Amazon for $20 less than what we have it for. I buy on Amazon all the time, I love Amazon. If I could give you any advice though, just make sure that you get the sellers contact info and find out about their tech support and warranty service, because I'm 100% sure that the manufacturer will not honor either of those through a product bought on Amazon and thats something you will want on a product such as this. Thats why you just want to make sure that the re-seller will handle all that. If all that checks out, then I'd say go for it. (that almost always never checks out). BTW, if it doesnt work out, we have lifetime tech support and we handle the 3 year warranty on that product for you. If anything goes bad, we replace it right out of our stock in Tulsa, OK. (rather than China!!!!!)
- Yeah, Axis is excellent equipment, pioneers in the IP Camera industry. The only problem with Axis is that your paying for the name and you may end up quoting yourself out of some jobs. I'd invite you to take look at some of our products and look at the image quality and software interfaces of our products, you will find there isnt much difference in quality but our stuff is 1/3 less or more. I'd like to send you a sample for you to take a look. Customer receives it: "Wow this little thing has a great image!!!"
Not to sound like a sales plug or anything, but we do love dealing with Sean; pricing has always been good and the support is among the best I've ever had. Unfortunately, economic realities dictate buying locally these days, usually ADI... the exchange on the Canadian dollar is just too much to absorb.
Hello Unknown customer! Yes ADI in canada has to be convenient for you. However, there are all sorts of ways to skin a cat. Are there particular models that you purchase frequently? My thoughts are that we can warehouse some products for you in a Canadian FBA warehouse, you can get products next day or 2 day to you and we can also take care of those pesky customs charges that you get on every import. This way you have products delivered to your shop in a timely manner, you dont have to fire up your vehicle to make the drive to ADI, and you still get great service to boot.
See what I did there.
Competitors would love to criticize their competition more but are restrained by the downside of being perceived as negative, as well as the realization that anything bad they might say about their competition is discounted to begin with.
Both these objections though can be overcome: Should Manufacturers Sponsor Penetration Testing Of Competitor's Products?
I think a big reason people do not bash their competitors hard is because in this industry there is a lot of turnover. You never know who you could be working for down the road. Maybe that competitor comes to recruit you down the line and offers you a 20% raise over your current position?
Point being, people don't forget in this business. There is such a thing as "classy competition." If you go for the jugular on a deal and rip your competition it could be closing the door on an opportunity down the line...
5, that's a good point. I do agree that this is a risk.
It can be mitigated by how the criticism is delivered. Sure, if you say, "X products suck, their support people stink, their going to fail right away, etc" you are probably burning a bridge.
But I do think it is possible to keep it more professional by focusing on specific things "Here are 3 dealers or customers who had high RMA rates in the past year, the model XYZ you are looking at is very bad in poor light and you want to use it in a remote wooded area, etc."
Selling against a competitor is like a debate - except in this debate, each side gives their arguments to the customer without the other side being present - and then the customer decides whose argument was stronger by buying their stuff.
imo, this is all about how manufacturers and distributors and VARs (and their sales and marketing efforts) attempt to position themselves in the market. One style argues from a position of strength, while the other style can be seen to be arguing from a position of weakness.
Having an actual differentiator and trumpeting this loudly - I think leading with differentiators is what any good sales person would do (if they possess any) - and by doing so, there is no need to bad mouth your competitors. By trumpeting your 'feature X' you are (in essence) bad mouthing your competitors by indirectly stating your competitors suck because they don't have this thing.
Example: Axis and their marketing blitz when they rolled out Zipstream back when. They lead with the narrative of what they have - not what others don't have (which is inferred, but not stated).
Pointing out a flaw in a competitors product - while I agree with John that in the grand scheme, this can be beneficial to customers (if it can be proven), I also agree with Ryan (and Steve) that this is much harder to lead with - without sounding like your products really have nothing special to offer.
"One famous executive at ISC West knocked Hikvision H.264+ to me, not understanding how it actually worked..."
"If a customer isn't interested in how many MPG a car gets, the sales guy criticizing how poor the MPG is on his competitor's cars (even if true) doesn't help his chances and may hurt them."
"My competitor likes to kick puppies"
Not only must you be very certain that what you are saying is true (and not just your own biased perspective), you also have to make sure you tie this competitors 'flaw' to something the customer in front of you even gives a crap about.
I think Sean Nelson's narrative above is a great example of 'winning the debate' by arguing from a position of strength.
This discussion is sorely in need of some actual competitor bashing.
Don't have any differentiators?
Try taking your competitors differentiators and inverting them. Often times even something that is generally superior will still have some negative trade offs.
- If your competitors software runs on Mac and PC, stress the improved reliability and responsiveness of a single code base optimized for one target OS.
- If your competitor's product is known for being 'built like a tank', stress how lightweight and small yours are.
- If you were too cheap to add a reset button, explain how theives will not be able to use your device, and therefore will prefer to steal competitors units.
The last one is pretty far-fetched, but it's been used...
When I worked for one of the top 3 VMS companies, I found myself in competitive situations often where people would ask, "why is your solution better?" If you don't know what about your own product IS better, then you can't answer the question. I did and discussed the differences -- factual and practical. I usually tried to highlight the pros and cons to each approach to remain impartial and let the customer decide for themselves. I did win a lot more often than not. The point is that I never "slammed" the competition, but I had to know about them in order to discuss the differences which almost every customer wanted to do. Once you understand the differences, you can determine where your product fits best and what your ultimate value proposition really is, and then you SHOULD talk about it. Maybe don't lead with it, but it will usually come up, at least in my experience. But, always be respectful, never lie or embellish, and don't be afraid to tell your customer where your competition is better than you. No one out there is better than everyone else in every area, so don't try to pretend that you are. Customers will appreciate the honesty much more.
Got this in my email today.... Somehow I get the feeling it will be more promotional and toned down that what one may expect, I don't know why, but I signed up just to see what happens.
Real-time ballot stuffing. For some reason, I get the sense that the organizers are scrambling to find the "two more leading companies"...
Perhaps an American Manufacturer might be nice, say Ez-Viz?