Rethinking Competition: What If There’s No Such Thing as a Competitor?
It's really easy to see competitors as your enemies. They want what you want, and they're calling on the same prospects. In many cases, it's a zero-sum game. If they win an agreement or a deal, it means you lose. It's really difficult not to be bitter or even a little bit chippy when that happens.
But then... you get better. Your steel gets tempered a little bit, you learn from those experiences, live to fight another day and win a little bit yourself (their turn to eat humble pie, right?)
Actually, I think that's a bit of a juvenile way to look at things, and I think you're capable of better. Here's my perspective.
There's no such thing as a competitor...
Whoa.. wait, Bajorek... Did you just say I don't have any competition?
No. Competition is the spirit you conjure up when you ready yourself for an engagement, and you know that other people are vying for the same prize. You want competition. What I'm saying is that if you do your job, you don't have any true competitors. If you can adequately differentiate yourself and demonstrate that you can provide outcomes that nobody else can, then nobody is really a competitor.
But if you cannot differentiate, you cannot sell. Competitors are for commodities, and you do not sell a commodity. So, forget about the semantics and change your attitude about what you do.
If you're too busy trying to beat the other guy, then your focus is on the wrong person (and the bar is too low). You should be thinking about how you can best serve your customer with the unique outcomes only you can provide. That's your job and it has nothing to do with anybody else trying to do the same. Don't think about how you can take the other companies down, think about how you can lift your customers up.
This fosters an environment of mutual respect. You don't have to watch your own back so much if you haven't been jamming knives into the backs of others. It makes the grind a lot more palatable.
I've always had a reputation for playing nicely with my competition. I didn't always like them, but I would sometimes hang out with them at conferences and meetings. I even bought beers, except when they wouldn't let me. You know what? They were a great source of information for me. Sometimes we even helped each other. In healthcare, it's always about the patient, and our customers appreciated collaboration over infighting. Even if you’re not in healthcare, I don’t know why anybody in any industry wouldn’t appreciate the same. Additionally, sometimes the only people who really understand and can empathize with what you do is someone else who does it too.
I've even been personally thanked for not using underhanded tactics and given personal assurances that they would keep things clean too. Who thought selling could be so... civil?
Here's what is perhaps the most important thing... Who are you going to be working for in five years? Leadership positions open all the time. Companies like to hire leaders with relevant experience, and a lot of times they go outside the company to do so. Maybe you're looking for a different fit, and a spot is available with the other team. That means the person you took down last quarter could be your boss next month, or worse, your new top rep. It's best not to poison the well that everybody drinks from...
Professional selling requires that you act like a professional. While that requires an intimate understanding of how you may compare to the others in your space, especially how it impacts your customers' decisions to buy, you cannot afford to take your eye off the ball. You don't sell in a vacuum, but tunnel vision in this regard is a lot more valuable than you think.