Dear SaaStr: How Do I Know if My Competitor is Cold Calling My Customers?

Just assume your competitor is cold calling all your existing customers.  They should be.  Be most worried if they are doing it well.

They should be calling your customers.

Yes, oftentimes the yield here can be low if your customers are very happy.  But:

  • First, it is almost always worth continuing to market to lost deals if you have the resources and are in a competitive space. You may stumble. Your champion may leave. A customer that is happy with one vendor in the space is someone that likes the space. There’s some chance in a month, a year, a decade, they could switch.
  • Second, assume your competitor has a database of when your contracts are up for renewals, and does campaigns around those dates. They should, if they have a strong customer marketing or deep demand gen function. Demand gen can almost always pick up a few extra solid MQLs from lost deals that made … the wrong choice. It just takes time to realize it.
  • Third, assume your competitor reaches out aggressively to your customers if you have downtime, a security issue, etc. Some customers will indeed use that as a reason to switch.
  • Fourth, assume your competitor may offer big discounts for switching — bigger ones that they’d usually offer. And even buy-out deals. They may be willing to subsidize the cost of switching now, even if they are on annual+ contracts. Zoom got really good at this to beat WebEx. They just bought out even 3 year WebEx contracts.
  • Fifth, assume risk is high if your champion leaves. And assume your competitor knows, too. Jumping in during champion change is a great way to steal a customer from a competitor.

Assume it all. When you are big enough, you may (or may not) want to do the same. The ROI here often isn’t huge, but it is real. Once you have enough resources, it can make sense to assign some here.  Even to have a Steal Team that is paid handsomely just to steal deals from the competition.

And most importantly, assume your competitor continues to market to all the customers and deals they have lost to you.

This is so easy — they already have the contact information and deal basics after all. It may take 2–3 years to win a lost deal back. But they likely will get another shot at it, especially if you don’t treat your customers incredibly well.

Too many startups just move on once the deal is lost.  That’s a mistake, or at least, it’s a missed opportunity.

A related post here:

Champion Change: You Gotta Jump On It

(note: an updated SaaStr Classic answer)

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