Should You Ask a Vendor About Competitors?

We were giving a demo the other day of two new products we’re working on, and near the end, one of the people on the call posed this question; how do we compare to [Competing Product X]?

It’s a question I am asked from time to time, but one that makes me a little uncomfortable. Thinking about it, I don’t think it’s a question to ask of a vendor.

While I know a little bit about our competitors and their products, I’m not qualified to answer that question unless I use a product at least several times per week. Even if I knew a great deal about the competing product, I am an evangelist for our products, and as such, I am anything but an impartial source. As a rule, I’ll never say anything negative about a competitor or their products, which also impacts my impartiality.

The purpose of the demo was to determine whether our product was a good fit for their needs. The answer that I gave is that they should answer that question by trying them both out over a week or two. Does it get the job done? How easy is it to learn and use? How much time does it save them? How is the responsiveness and quality of their tech support? We’re confident that we’ll compare favorably in head-to-head comparisons, and if/when we don’t, we’re good with the customer finding a better fit for their needs.

So what do you think? Is it a fair question to ask a vendor? Are there benefits I haven’t considered?

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