Make Friends with your Competitors

No, I don’t mean “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”, I mean truly, make friends with your competitor. Take them to lunch. Have a drink with them at the next conference you both attend. You may be surprised by what you find. 

When you hear the word Competitor, do you picture the enemy? Goliath? 

Sometimes, those things are true. But often, those concepts are simply outdated. If you think about it, your #competitor could be your biggest professional ally. 

Here are a few reasons why:

1. You have a lot in common. You are both passionate about what you do. Of course, that is not always true, and if it is not, one of you needs to be in a different #business. However, if you truly believe in what you are doing, even you will have to admit that you simply can’t help everyone. Isn’t it great that there may be others out there who can fill in those gaps? If it’s all about the customer, then there will be plenty of business to go around for everyone.

2. Competition makes the world go around. Think about it. If there were no #competition, things would be pretty dull. Services would languish. Prices would soar. You live in a capitalist society, so you get it. In reality, the competition is probably doing you a favor, and if you are any good at your job, they will serve to keep you sharp and make you even better at what you do.

3. Competitors help bring awareness to the market. Are you the little guy competing against Goliath? That’s great! Why? It is expensive to take something to market, and Goliath has a big advertising budget. He is creating awareness for you and expanding your reach. Sure, it may be under a different brand, but the main points are probably relevant to your offering as well. Now all you have to do is pick up where Goliath left off by explaining why your solution may be a better fit to prospects who may appreciate what you have instead of what the big box #brand is offering. Of course, you have to know the differences, which brings me to my next point.

4. The competition will strengthen your offering. Don’t have a differentiator that you can get behind? Then you probably deserve to be eaten up by Goliath. It is not enough to know what makes your offering different, your customers have to know it too. Have you identified your #differentiator and are you getting that messaging out? Here’s the thing, it has to be true in order for this to work. You can’t just say the same things that everyone else is saying. What truly makes you stand out? Is it service? Price? Quality? No one has a monopoly on all three. It is important to NOT do this by pointing out your competitors' weaknesses, but to know where you excel and focus on that instead.

5. Know your competitors’ strengths so that you can compete honestly. Can the prospect that you just met with simply not afford your offering? Be prepared to let them know where they can go for a less expensive solution. Sometimes, the cheaper option might work just fine for now. If you are selling luxury cars and all they need is a bicycle, it is a waste of everyone’s time to “talk them into” buying something that they don’t need and won’t be happy with even if you succeed. A #prospect who is treated fairly, even if that means they are not going to be your customer, can still be a powerful champion for you. And eventually, maybe they will need a car. Guess who they will call then?

Even if you do want the #business and don’t refer the prospect out, no one can win every deal. It is far less painful to lose to a strong competitor that you know is honest because you took the time to sit down and learn about them face to face.

Besides, it is ridiculous to think that in this day and age, your competitor has not seen your specs, your proposal, your pricing. Isn’t it better to arm yourselves with an accurate depiction of what the other company is really offering before you go out and talk to the same prospects? If I am truly going to be an expert in my field, that means accurately knowing how my solution differs from my competitors, not guessing and possibly getting it wrong.

In my #career, I have always made friends with my competitor. Not the kind where you plaster a fake smile on your face when you walk past them, but the kind that you really do want to go grab a drink with when you see them at a conference. Of course, slime ball competitors do exist too. Everyone is familiar with that one sleazy guy who makes everyone look bad. But that just makes it easier to refer your prospects out to the competitors who you know deserve the referrals and will treat the customer right. Plus, it gives you and your new competitor friend something to laugh about when you do have that beer. Because karma is out there.

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