6 ways to keep competition from getting under your skin

Posted by Keith Jolie on Thursday, November 8, 2012 Under: Strategies
As a business owner, being confident in your product or service is paramount to your success.  It will dictate how convincingly you promote your business to potential clients, prospective employees and it will invariably affect your passion and commitment to the business. 

Your confidence can have an Achilles heel however when it comes to objectively evaluating your competition and more specifically how well you are addressing your clients' needs in relation to your competition.

Consider the following scenario:

You have a dynamic sales rep who has traditionally performed extremely well.  They come to you to discuss a new offering from one of your competitors.  If your reaction is to immediately default to discussing how your offering is better in some way, you may be missing an opportunity to learn from the market.

Here are a few steps you can take to avoid missing an opportunity to improve your business:

1.  Listen carefully.   Avoid the temptation to dismiss the possible competitive advantage that is presented.  Client needs evolve and as they do, the reason that you have been successful in the past may not be the chief motivator for current and future clients.  Hearing the reasons that clients are choosing your competition may give you insight into possible changes to your product, delivery model, or even pricing.

2.  Identify the specific steps that you could take to challenge the advantage your competitor has achieved.  List them all.  It could be additional value added components to your service, better warrantee conditions, an easier purchasing process or better support for instance, but it could also mean evaluating your pricing if the advantage that is being addressed is not one that you can meet directly.

3.  Discuss the options with your customers, and your sales staff.  Communicate how important your existing customers are to you and your desire to continue to be a trusted partner.  Emphasize the value you've provided over the course of the business dealings with them and present to them the options you're considering to be more competitive in the marketplace.   Ask them what would provide the greatest value to them.  Ask your sales team what would help them to be more successful.

4.  Consider all the feedback you receive and make your best decision about the direction you will take.  Be prepared to adjust again if you don't get it right the first time, but don't agonize too long in an effort to get it right. Your competition is selling while you go through this process, so incremental improvements that happen quickly will likely outpace a larger adjustment that takes too long to get to market.

5.  Implement a process for gathering pro-active competitive information so that you are not learning from lost deals, but rather staying ahead of the curve with new features or more value.

6.  Consider employing an outside consultant to undertake some of the market research for you.  This removes you from the process and will provide you with a more objective evaluation of your competitive positioning.

Finally, early on in the process you may learn that there is actually no competitive advantage that you need to adjust for but rather you need to do a better job of communicating all the features and abilities that your business offers.  Better training for your staff to help them to more effectively communicate the benefits of your business to existing and future clients may eliminate the competitive pressure.  If this is the case, you should still be considering all of the above points in order to more pro-actively address your market.

By Keith Jolie

In : Strategies 

Tags: competition "competitive positioning" "business development" sales 
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