Why We Send Prospects to Competitors If We're Not a Good Fit

As a customer it can often feel like the person on the other end of the line or more appropriate these days—messenger, doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

No matter if you’re a good fit for their product or not, you’re going in their funnel and whatever you say, the product is just perfect for your use case. It can almost make getting in touch feel like a pointless task and that perhaps you should skip the debacle and try everything until you find a product that feels right.

For better or worse, we’ve never been great at sales. There’s no doubt it’s a great way to grow your business and maybe in the future we’ll give it another spin. But to me it seems like sales is a game with many reps trying to squeeze commission out of every prospect.

Sometimes we get visitors who are looking for something specific. They’ve been thinking about what they need for a while and we show up on their radar. As much as we’d appreciate the extra revenue, we sometimes send visitors to our competitors. Why? Because they’re not a good fit for our product.

A better, honest interaction

We have pretty interesting conversations with visitors and customers. It’s great to get to know the person behind the screen and understand the problem they’re trying to solve—whether that’s finding the right software or debugging an issue.

I’d like to think people who speak with us over live chat or email have a better impression of HelpDocs after our conversation. That’s really what we aim for in our support.

One of the ways we try and make sure this happens is by being honest and open.

Yes, the point of a business is to make money but isn’t it also to make people happier? Did you create a business to just to make dollars or was it about something more than that? Call me naive but for me, there’s nothing more rewarding than making someone’s day better. If we can do that we’ve done a good job no matter the cost.

For example, I walked into a Starbucks for the fourth time in Singapore today and the barista remembered I liked a short black filter coffee in a ceramic mug. I was surprised and a smile gleamed across my face. While the coffee chain made a few bucks and the coffee itself was good, it was the fact someone remembered my order that made me really happy.

The point is if a visitor can understand that actually, you have their best interests at heart, that’ll make them happy no matter if they buy from you or not.

We don’t do everything well

Right now we’re a great fit for small to medium companies that want to set up a quick, simple, customizable external knowledge base for their customers.

While we do tick some of the boxes for enterprise and internal knowledge bases, sometimes internal teams ask for tighter controls on permissioning and enterprise prospects ask for certain single sign on providers we don’t yet support.

So what’s the best thing to do in this situation? It’s easy to over-promise and try to push the visitor into buying your product. Answers like “I’ll talk to the product team about this, shouldn’t take very long” or worse yet “I’ll have to get back to you on that, I’m not sure. You could sign up and take a look” and never get a follow up.

If something is on our roadmap, we try to give an estimation of when it’ll be done. Like many product people know things get pushed back, delays happen, and sometimes it’s disappointing—nobody’s perfect. So along with an estimation of when it’ll get implemented we provide competitors who already support the feature.

“Yep, that’s on our roadmap for the next 6 months. You might wanna check out COMPETITOR, I think they have that feature already”.

If you’ll never do the feature be upfront about that too. There’s nothing like a bit of honesty to gain trust. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.

It might seem horrifying to let a prospect know about your competitors, but chances are they’ve had a good look around and you might be able to point them in the right direction.

Avoid dreaded churn

If you’re a subscription business churn can be a painful part of the job. People cancel because your product just isn’t right for them. It might be that you’ve done a bad job of setting exceptions or they’ve simply grown out of your software.

So why would you lead innocent prospects into a river that ends with a plummeting waterfall?

Your team and users invest money, time, and energy into trying to make the product fit their needs. If it was never meant to be that’s just a waste of all three resources.

You might get a few bucks out of the customer but they’ll churn and be unhappy with their decision. It can also harm their career and reputation in the company. Convincing their team to invest in your product and then having to pull out can have embarrassing consequences and is unlikely to win you a good reputation.

So be upfront when they ask questions. Does it do the job they want it to do, and if not, will it and by when? Your tool can’t and shouldn’t do everything so be honest to avoid churning customers back out right away.

Creating a better landscape

If I don’t like being oversold the dream and tricked into trying something that clearly wasn’t right for me, why would I contribute to the system?

Don’t get me wrong—there are plenty of businesses out there that try to do the right thing by customers and prospects. Unfortunately I think there are many more that don’t.

I understand why. Managers expect results and these results are usually based on revenue. You can’t exactly measure performance on prospect happiness alone. But perhaps giving up a quick dime or two is better in the long run.

A bad company reputation is easy to gain but a great one is exceptionally difficult. Just take a look at hotel reviews. Many customers are delighted, but just a few too many bad experiences can cause an overall score to plummet which means less bookings.

I’d love to leave a good mark on software as a service. Did we make as much revenue as we perhaps could’ve? Maybe not but we did it the way we thought ethical and right.

Like the golden rule states—treat others how you want to be treated. For us, there’s no better way to do business.