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  1. #1
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    Question How do you handle Competition?

    I have a saying "Competition is good for business" but I'm beginning to feel like that is the majority of our clients / sales requests these days -- are Competitors.

    We seem to be replying to massive emails about the technical details of their questions. We don't like to leave customers in the dark in regards to the software we have built, and having a FAQ seems to bring even more questions about details within some of the FAQs!

    So at the moment, it's like "Let's just sit here all day and reply to our potential customers emails" which on average takes roughly from 5 to 20 minutes to compose and send out with on average about 20 sales requests per day. The real customers will ask a few questions, and purchase within 1 week (due to the cost of the software), the fake customers (aka competitors will keep replying email after email and never purchase). However, we cannot classify every customer who has many questions as a competitor, some people really do have massive amounts of questions before a purchase. I'm one of those people.

    Based on the nature of the software, there are various questions and almost all customers require a "privatized" email reply or they will know right away it's based on a canned response, which isn't too good either.

    The end result leaves us to believe that from the percentage of sales requests we receive, the ones that are actual customers don't have as many questions or comments to be answered as the ones that don't purchase but ask the most questions.

    Do you have any ideas of how we can reduce this issue? something professional to say so they can purchase "NOW" and ask later ?

    Or even better -- is there something "legal" we can present to our new customers asking them if they are a competitor or not? It really does sound silly, just want any clairification if we can do something like this? (I'm sure we could, but is that legal)?

    But to my main question: How do you deal with competition when it comes knocking at your door?

  2. #2
    SitePoint Enthusiast rbemiller's Avatar
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    One thing you could do is require an non-free email address. Meaning in your contact forms, check for and deny emails from @yahoo.com, @hotmail.com etc. That way your competitor may be forced to use their own url, which would tell you it's a competitor. Of course this won't always work, but it may help cut down a bit. Just one option.
    I do eCommerce and online marketing. I also happen to get 100's
    of new email subscribers every day!.
    - Check Out The Exact Methods I Use. For FREE! - Want to start
    an eCommerce Store for Free? Here's How I Have Done It

  3. #3
    SitePoint Evangelist bronze trophy Derek Sheppard's Avatar
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    In your case I would send 1-2 emails and then require a phone contact to talk directly. that will take care of most of the dross, and you'll be better able to qualify those that do bother to call.

    Your call as to whether to offer a toll-free number. Better yet, schedule a call-back.

  4. #4
    SitePoint Zealot LucidSurf's Avatar
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    Something I do when things get busy is send out a Technical and Creative Brief for the prospective client to complete. Here are examples of the documents from Macromedia.

    Competitors usually can't help getting far too detailed about technology as they live and breath this stuff just like you. If you get an end-user client specifying exact database types, languages, scripting methodologies etc then you can start suspecting something (although some end-users are quite knowledgeable).

    Also, call them and try to arrange a meeting. This isn't always feasible but if they refuse a meeting then that's a sign that they're not too serious (or maybe a little uncomfortable).

    If they send you an email, you can always check the WHOIS details for that domain as you may find it registered to a web design company.

    I wouldn't be doing all of this all the time as you're liable to get a bit paranoid but there's a few ideas to help you filter out the noise and focus on your real clients.

  5. #5
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    psalzmann, what I always do is a phone follow up of the email I get. This also gies me a good insight of how interested the customer is.

    The fact is, I guess from your message that you product's price is too low to justify that number of calls..

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    I never send back detailed emails to anyone who contacts me via email. I have a perfectly good phone number on my site which I go to great lengths to encourage people to ring - either that or I offer a call back service.

    Of course, lots of people use the call back form to ask questions and put '00000' as their phone number ('I'm too busy to talk, please communicate by email'). Hey, guess what bud, I'm too busy to compose an email when I can get through the same stuff in 1/10 of the time over the phone.

    It depends on what you are selling of course - if it's $20 software, then I can see why you wouldn't want to call, but then again it's not exactly profitable for you to spend 30 minutes on an email - canned responses would be the best option.

    But I'm selling web services at 2000+, so the way I see it, if my prospect isn't happy to talk over the phone, it's unlikely they are the kind of prospect I want to deal with on a long term basis, and a good chance they are window shopping or competitors. In which case they get a canned response 'Please feel free to ring me to discuss your plans or forward me your number and I'll call you back'. They rarely ring back, which is fine because I'm then spending my time on real prospects.

  7. #7
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shadowbox
    I never send back detailed emails to anyone who contacts me via email. I have a perfectly good phone number on my site which I go to great lengths to encourage people to ring - either that or I offer a call back service.

    Of course, lots of people use the call back form to ask questions and put '00000' as their phone number ('I'm too busy to talk, please communicate by email'). Hey, guess what bud, I'm too busy to compose an email when I can get through the same stuff in 1/10 of the time over the phone.

    It depends on what you are selling of course - if it's $20 software, then I can see why you wouldn't want to call, but then again it's not exactly profitable for you to spend 30 minutes on an email - canned responses would be the best option.

    But I'm selling web services at 2000+, so the way I see it, if my prospect isn't happy to talk over the phone, it's unlikely they are the kind of prospect I want to deal with on a long term basis, and a good chance they are window shopping or competitors. In which case they get a canned response 'Please feel free to ring me to discuss your plans or forward me your number and I'll call you back'. They rarely ring back, which is fine because I'm then spending my time on real prospects.

    I love (sincerely) your attitude!

    Shadowbox is sooooo right! I do business almost exclusively on the Internet, but my phone number and fax number are readily available. People who are sincerely interested in your products and services have no problem following up with at phone call. I live in the Midwestern Minnesota and I have clients in Holland, the UK, the Southern US and the Eastern US. Almost all of them have called at one time or another.

    Even so, I don't give away my secrets. I'm not a teacher. I'm a service provider. When someone asks a question that is "too close for comfort", I generally just tell them I would be happy to take care of it for them.

    My customers get a relevant overview of what I can do, when it will be done, and examples of what I have done for others. Seems to be all the real customers need.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  8. #8
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    We have decided to add a phone number field which will not be required, but available as well when contacting us through the website. We've required the email, but left the phone field optional.

    I like the idea about no free email accounts, something we're looking into doing very soon.

    Thanks for the comments all, much appreciated!

  9. #9
    SitePoint Evangelist
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    I'll reinforce what many others have already said: Talk to serious prospects on the phone!

    It's funny, I think we've grown so accustomed to 'Technology' that we tend to assume the 'newest way' is always the best.

    I do think e-mail is, in a sense, easier; it can be less intimidating, and you can reword what you're trying to say until it's 'perfect' (something that takes me 20 freaking minutes every time I need to say something important).

    A phonecall is quick. You'll probably only need a few minutes to prequalify the person and see if he's worth pursuing.

    -Costas

  10. #10
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    Yes, I understand what you are talking about.

    There are lots of fake people, who will engage you in time wasting tasks(like asking you for estimates, sending you faxes not related to your needs), because they are not sure of what they are doing:

    -find a way of verifying the degree of seriousness behind each contact.
    -change your e-mail address regularly
    -use telephone contacts
    -If after two or three e-mail exchanges you are not getting to a decisive phase in the purchasing process, find a way to block the person e-mail address.
    Last edited by fashola; Oct 21, 2005 at 10:14.
    fash

  11. #11
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    Thanks for all the input guys. My auto-subscribe to thread wasn't enabled and I wasn't able to read any new posts. This is fixed now. Again, thanks to all for sharing your thoughts.

    Regards,
    Peter


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