How do you view competitive bake-offs?

Tim Riesterer, writing at, highlights the ways companies can rise above the competitive “bake-off” mentality. This was a good read and reminded me of the challenges many companies face when trying to differentiate themselves against the competition.

While I agree in principle with with Tim has to say, I have to disagree and state that I believe bake-offs have their place, particularly in the Tech sector with the following caveats:

  • When used as a competitive tool in a competitive battle.
  • When used when your product is #2 or below the the market leader.

Bake-offs are good when you are already in the battle. Tim does raise the solid argument that solution selling or selling on benefits and customer needs is a much smarter way of selling. I agree. Selling in this way focuses on the unique differences in your product and your products ability to solve a real business problem for a customer. IT vendors are signing up in droves to get their sales staff into such solution selling courses and this is all very good for both the vendor and ultimately the end customer, who gets a solution, rather than an answer to a question they didn’t ask.

But what if you have a product that you know offers something better than the competition? What if your product or offering is brand new and you need to attract attention and mindshare with customers?

Bake-offs can be used with significant aggression and success in these situations. Look at what AMD has done to Intel over the years. Regularly positioning themselves against Intel, they have used bake-offs to define thier market credentials.

If you know your product is easier to install, configure and so on, compared to your competitor – positioning yourself within a bake-off can do several things to your advantage.

  • Shows the customer you are serious about thier business.
  • Aligns your product against a larger competitor and thus showing credibility in the space.
  • Can often make your competitors spin cycles making sure they win the bake-off. You may consider this a negative, but carefully choosing when to enter bake-offs and when not to, may allow you to focus on smaller accounts when in a start-up phase. At the same time limited competitor involvement if they are already battling you in a larger, more strategic account for them.

If you are supporting your sales representatives, one tool to have in your CI arsenal is the bake-off lists of features, functionality and delivery/support. In such a way you’ll quickly get to know where bake-off battles will work in your favour and when they will not.


2 thoughts on “How do you view competitive bake-offs?

  1. Microsoft and Oracle have had a database bake-off going for years now where each produces a new report comparing the two in favour of one over the other. While it’s a bake-off neither vendor can win what it does is create the impression that it’s a two horse race. By snubbing all the other database vendors they ensure the buzz remains with these two products.

  2. Vincent,

    Couldn’t agree with you more on that point. You’d rather compete with a known entity than a group of unknowns.

    Bit like Microsoft back in 2002-2003. I believe they incorrectly (from an MS perspective) gave Linux far too much airplay and did exactly what you’re mentioning – benchmarking themselves in terms of value. Remember those TCO studies.. hard to justify giving that much credence to your competitors when they are in such a start-up phase.

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