While some people, businesses and organizations loath competition, competition is in fact healthy for business. I learned this several years ago when I was in the restaurant business. I was speaking to a colleague and mentioned how frustrated I was that other restaurants were popping up like weeds all around us – I thought it was bad for business, I thought it diluted our offering, but to the contrary, it was healthy. Having competition does a few things:
Our industry is no different; there are many service providers who have incredible offerings. It is your job, like it is for your client, to weed through those offerings and connect with those companies who are best for YOUR business. So, when looking at your business on the competitive landscape, keep these points in mind.
Never Become Complacent, Content (or arrogant)
This posture is the kiss of death. The companies who feel they are owed allegiance and loyalty are delusional, loyalty is earned and earned daily – with every touchpoint. With the magnitude of choices, it is so imperative to never become content with what you are delivering to your clients. A great way to determine this is to ask the client. In the book, “Made to Stick” by Dan and Chip Heath the CMO’s (Chief Marketing Officers) while at a conference, asked the authors how they were able to get the information they were discussing in their book, the response was brilliant, ‘…we asked…’. Take time to query your clients through direct questioning or via a survey and ask if you are “exceeding” their expectations, if not, you have work to do. Additionally, never assume that you know what they want; nine times out of ten you’re wrong.
Create a Difference
What are you doing differently, what makes you stand out? Ask yourself this question, ‘What about me and my company, would compel someone to write me a check? Our clients and prospects are constantly looking for a way to position themselves above their competition, unfortunately, many do this by requesting the cheapest product available, and that is yet another nail in the coffin. Salespeople have this tendency to take the easy road, which generally equates to lowering the price – that becomes a very slippery slope. Look at your current systems and methodologies, are they up to date, is your operation streamlined, do you invest in ongoing training and education for you and your staff. As an international speaker, people are often surprised to see me sitting in an audience listening to a presentation; I find so much valuable information by listening to others speak, whether it’s information, or a delivery style, or the way they interact with the audience. I try and take the best from the best, massage it and make it my own. I gain so much from listening to other professionals. If I walk away with one nugget, just one nugget of information, then I am better for it and my audience will ultimately benefit as well. One of the nicest compliments I ever received was from a friend who said, “Cliff it never ceases to amaze me that every year you seem to have reinvented yourself”. For me and my business, it’s critical, as it should be for you!
Always Strive for Improvement - Practice “Kaizen” – Evaluate Constantly
The Japanese have a practice called Kaizen, a description of the practice was found on Lifehacker.com – it states, “A Japanese management strategy called Kaizen roughly translates to "continuous slow improvement." In the corporate world, it's an efficiency and defect-proofing system often used on factory floors. But Kaizen emphasizes the well-being of the employee, working smarter, not harder and developing best practices so that workers don't have to think. As such, Kaizen is an ideal approach to improve one's personal workflow”. This practice of self-evaluation and more importantly, self-improvement will be a critical factor in growing your business and maintaining great client relationships. It is a practice continually, it becomes part of your culture.
Understand Your Audience
It was alluded to earlier in the article but certainly bears repeating; never assume you know what people want - ask and don’t be afraid of the answers you may get. Years ago, I was going through the motions of business and decided to survey my clients. My top client responded to my survey with my WORST review, understandably I was shocked and dismayed but after careful consideration of his comments - he was right, I was failing him. While it was tough to swallow, it allowed me to correct the situation and reconnect in a way that satisfied his needs. Another method is to research the client and their competition. In an article a few years back in B2B Magazine, they listed the Top Ten Things Clients Want from a Strategic Partner and near the top of that list was ‘…an understanding of my business’. I had a chat with my dad who was a former purchasing officer for McGraw-Hill, he made it clear to me that he wanted nothing to do with a company or sales rep that didn’t understand his business. Take heed to this council, it will do you well.
Be Open to Possibilities
Some of the things you hear may not sit well; however, I encourage you to be open to the possibilities, be open to new ways of doing things and methodologies. Here is an example. Technology is moving at breakneck speed; in fact, in my research, I found that the technological advancements that we’re experienced in our country from 1900 to 1950 were condensed to three months in 2010; that’s fifty years condensed to three months…what does the future hold.
As you move forward how will you be perceived? My suggestion is never to become stale and complacent, always look to create a difference for yourself and your clients, evaluate your business constantly, take the time to truly understand your clients, and remain open to all possibilities.
Individuals, companies, and organizations that feel some sort of entitlement for business need to get a grip. Now more than ever we need to realize that “earning business” happens every day – it’s not a given. It is through this ever-diligent process of self-evaluation and self-improvement that we maintain market share that we’ve come to gain. The trick is keeping it.
Question! What are you going to do about yours?
Continue Making A Difference ~ CQ
For nearly 40 years, Cliff Quicksell, MAS+, MASI, with his company, Cliff Quicksell Associates, has been speaking, coaching, training, and consulting both nationally and internationally to associations and small business groups, on more effective ways to market themselves, their products, and services; as well as motivating their personnel. Recognized by PPAI for his creativity, he has won the prestigious PPAI Pyramid Award over 30 times, the Printing Industry's PSDA’s Peak Award for creativity 5 times, and Regional Association CPPA’s Peak Award 3 consecutive years. Cliff has coached countless others with the same result. Cliff received PPAI's Ambassador Speaker of the Year Award six consecutive years; and was the inaugural recipient of PPAI's Distinguished Service Award. Named one of top six industry speakers and trainers, he was recognized by PPAI in the book, "PPAI at 100", as having a significant influence in education in our industry. He was recognized by Counselor Magazine as one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in the Promotional Products Industry. Cliff’s BLOG 30 Seconds to Greatness won the Award for Most Passed Around Content. Cliff’s most recent book, 30 Seconds to Greatness, is available on his website www.QuicksellSpeaks.com Connect with him on LinkedIn or via email at cliff@QuicksellSpeaks.com
Used with permission from PromoCorner