Barbarians at the Gate

Barbarians at the Gate

Zack Chase’s plan was now ready to be executed in full force.  We had a demo scheduled for 4 PM.  We connected the iMAC to stream to the big screen TV.  We connected the speaker phone to the demo line.  The stage was set for our first foray into corporate espionage.


I thought this picture would be a good memento several years from now when we are actually dominating the market.  It is us as we are watching intently at the demo of one of our most serious competitors.

On the table you have my iPhone our earpiece into the conversation Zack is having.

Every few minutes one of us realizes a topic we want more information on.  A few scribbles onto the iPad and I’d walk into Zack’s room.

Ask if you can have access to a demo system — Not that we needed to see how their software worked.  The onscreen demo was more than enough — but it was a question we got often, and we always pushed the customer away.  Sandler techniques taught us that the customer has to earn work.  If our #1 competitor is doing it though nonchalantly, we realized we look like a bunch of dicks.

Ask about Judging! — We noticed the sales agent on the other end of the line would only demo things that were asked about.  He was good — don’t introduce seagulls — one of the key points of Sandler training — so we needed to ask.

I have to admit, this was the most fun I’ve had in the office in a long time.  This feels like real business — deceit, information gathering, a ruse.  What we got out of it was some actionable steps — and some information.

  • Their software is virtually on par with ours.  We have a better form builder, they have a better report generator.  We have a better judging process, they have a better email blasting tool.
  • Their price points are virtually on par with ours.  We charge a “year 1, and year 2+” fee; they charge a consulting fee + a subscription fee.  The consulting fee is typically more in the first year.
  • Our price for a small program is something like $5k / $3,500.  Theirs was right on par with that.
  • They use Sandler sales techniques, so do we.

Pretty insane to get these insights.  We thought we were up against Goliath — a VC backed company, top end clients, great branding.  It turns out that we can go head to head with them.  We heard from prospects statements like “we can’t tell the difference between you and them, so we went with (them | you)”.

The truth is after our faux sales call with them, we also could not tell what the serious advantages were by choosing one over the other.

We thought they would have had some sick demo we could mimic.  Their demo is simply loading up 15 tabs and showing off various parts of the system after taking the prospect through the pain funnel.  Tim started doing this a few months ago, and we had planned to make sure Timmy would do live demos as well from now on.

So these were really our key take aways, live demos are needed — and we need to be prepared to give customers access to a demo system to play around with.

Not earth shattering knowledge, but for sure our confidence is way higher knowing that we are a visa/mastercard situation and not a David / Goliath situation.

There is enough of a market for 2 major players in the Awards market.  Frankly, today I’m happy to be on par with our #1 competitor.


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