If you’re like most of SaaS businesses, a meaningful portion of your sales pipeline will have one or more competitors in the mix.

We’ve identified five data-driven insights that will help you win more competitive deals by analyzing more than 500,000 B2B sales calls using our artificial intelligence technology. While we generally try to avoid cookie-cutter truisms, these were found to generally hold across most B2B software businesses.

  1. If your prospect mentions the competition early in a deal, the deal is likelier to close.

Averaged across our customer base, nearly 29 percent of deals in which the competition is discussed closed, compared to less than 19 percent of deals in which the competition goes unmentioned – a 54 percent difference.

In most cases, the enemy is not the competition, but a prospect going dark. A prospect mentioning rivals suggest they are in an active buying cycle and are more likely to buy a solution – hopefully yours.

In the half-million calls we analyzed, competitors tended to be mentioned in the earlier stages of a deal cycle – in the first 10 minutes of a conversation, and towards the end.

If a prospect doesn’t mention any competitors, it is even more important to do proper discovery and ensure that not only is there a real deal, but that it’s likely to close soon. That means digging into your qualification criteria like pain points, whether there is an upcoming compelling event, and if there is a budget.

  1. Don’t be the first to mention the competition – and don’t mention them by name.

Our data suggests that deals in which a sales rep is the first to mention the competition are less likely to close than deals in which the prospect does so.

Some experts suggest that establishing trust with a buyer is the most important factor in winning business and that openly discussing competitors establishes trust and credibility. It’s a fine line because the trade-off is that mentioning a competitor by name may inspire a prospect to talk to a competitor they otherwise wouldn’t have and that could cost you the deal. Most of us compete with a number of solutions and solve a number of challenges. The data suggest that mentioning every competitor that addresses an aspect of your solution is the best way to answer the question.

When a prospect is in discussions with a competitor, use the opportunity to learn as much as you can about what they like or don’t like about the solution and how they evaluate various vendors so that you can tailor the rest of the conversation to address those issues.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask about the competition.

If you know a deal is competitive, there’s no need to beat around the bush. Ask early in the conversation how a prospect evaluates the competitive landscape, and give them an opportunity to ask questions about differences between products. This gives you the chance to use the meeting to correct any misinformation and highlight your unique selling points.

  1. Don’t let the competition dominate the conversation.

It’s not complicated: The greater the number of competitors, the longer your odds of closing a deal.

How to beat the odds? Top performers respond effectively to competitive objections and deftly steer the conversation away from the competition.

The bottom line: Handle competitive objections thoughtfully, but don’t let the competition become the central focus of the conversation. Our findings show that conversations with less than three mentions of the competition result in a deal closing 25.7 percent of the time, compared to a success rate of only 14.3 percent when there are three or more competitive mentions.

  1. Study the best practices of top performers.

While the data reveals actionable insights and trends, conversations often boil down to the performance of the rep on your end of the line – and our findings show wide differentials in win rates by the rep in competitive deals.

Simply put, some reps excel at messaging their companies’ solutions, countering the arguments of the competition, and responding to objections of potential customers. Look into how top performers handle competitive deals so the rest of your sales reps can replicate their strategies.

Competitive deals don’t have to be rocket science – a little data science can go a long way.