Convincing prospects to buy before other competitors join the fray is ideal. But sometimes – especially when selling high-priced solutions to a limited number of large companies – you have to prepare for battle. Here’s how a VC-funded company selling to biopharma companies responded when Oracle began giving software away.
Shortly after I joined Phase Forward’s turn-around team as CMO, salespeople began complaining they were at risk of losing sales to Oracle. When a company purchased millions of dollars of database software, Oracle sometimes gave a solution similar to ours away for free. Prospects seemed to assume that because Oracle was so much larger, they’d get at least as good product and service.
Our complex applications processed invaluable clinical trial data. We were investing heavily in enhancing these solutions and providing integration services.
Giving away software caused Oracle to under-invest in our application area. We made that very clear to prospects by adding a slide to our presentation showing relative revenue and number of employees dedicated to this market.
For maximum impact, we’d preface this slide by recognizing that Oracle was 100 times our size.
Showing that Oracle’s clinical group was only a fraction of our company size startled prospects visibly.
Prospects’ joy at getting free software transformed into fear about the quality of services and value of future releases.
Postscript: A year later we were able to take the company public. Several years after our IPO, Oracle purchased Phase Forward for $685 million.
To disrupt a sale seemingly heading the competitor’s way, your presentation has to raise doubts about their ability to deliver on promises while instilling confidence in yours. Slides can also deflate misleading competitive claims.
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