It goes like this: The buyer, usually not a decision maker, is required to interview multiple vendors, but is predisposed to go with Salesperson A's product. More or less innocently, he or she asks Salesperson B how his or her offering compares to that of Salesperson A.
At this point, Salesperson B—along with something like 90 percent of all salespeople in the universe—responds with something like the following: "Mr. Prospect, I'm so glad you asked that question. Here's how our product is different from Salesperson A's offering!" And from there, on to the specifics.
Uh-oh! Salesperson B is describing how his or her product is different from the one the prospect likes the best—before trust has been established, before goals have been articulated, before diagnosis has occurred, and before the buyer has become convinced of the seller's expertise. Think about it: The worst thing Salesperson B can do at this point in the relationship is to contrast his or her offering to Salesperson A's. After losing, should the buyer be asked to help fill out the loss report?
Instead, Salesperson B could have asked: "What are you hoping to accomplish?" If the buyer responds with a goal, the seller now has a prospect (see above). Now the seller can use patience, process, and content to establish credibility, diagnose the current situation, and pose some usage scenarios that will differentiate the product from Salesperson A's. We have found, with client after client, that you have to get on an equal footing from a personal, competence, and capability standpoint first, before you differentiate your offering. Otherwise, you'll just be different—and you'll lose.