Do you know how they handle sales calls or emails?
Do you know what their initial email to a client looks like?
Do you know what their rates are? What their advertised deal is? What their coupons look like?
Do you know what their follow up process is like for a deal they don’t make on the initial pass?
If the answer to any of those questions is “No” then what the hell are you doing as a salesman? It is a rare day that your client isn’t going to shop around – especially in this economy. So if you don’t know what your competition is doing, you can be sure that your potential clients will.
There is no harm in doing some mystery shopping. I used to test other car dealers at least once a month when I was selling cars just to see how they would handle the phone call. Every once in a while when I was really bored (this is before I had become well known in the local car market) I would go onto someone’s lot and pretend to be a customer for a half hour or so. On good days I’d learn something from a better salesman than me, on bad days I’d be ashamed to be related to the same business as these guys.
When I started a research project at Integrum, Jason Newlin, one of my coworkers, asked me if I felt bad for wasting the competitions time. My answer “No, because if they’re not doing it to me, then they’re missing the boat.” It is not a malicious act to shop your competitors, but it is an educational one for you and your product team.
Be bold, take the time to learn what they are doing so that you can be better.