Who’s your Competitor?

competitors in business

I was in London at a business and networking event this week and I stayed in my favourite hotel – it’s a Travelodge which might not be everyone’s first choice but I love it because the staff are fantastic!  They always seem to do something to delight me.  As you can imagine there are many many hotels in London and many other Travelodges – so why do I continue to come here?

Which brings me to the subject of this blog – Competitors!

One of the reasons I chose this theme was that I spoke with someone last week who felt that another business owner was copying them, so it got me thinking about competition!

So how do we feel about competition and competitors?

I know when I first started out in business I was quite worried by the idea of competitors!  I think though over the years the number of true competitors has been quite low though.  I have even “conspired” with competitors at times – sharing intelligence about potential customers.  Particularly interesting, as the customer has NO IDEA that you would do such a thing!

competitors in business

The person who shared their concerns last week had noted that a competitor was imitating them, and was replicating aspects of their business completely!  (I can’t go into more detail without revealing who it was).  This was part of a group discussion and the general consensus was that they shouldn’t worry as they already had a very strong reputation – and in fact it is more likely to reflect badly on the copycat!

I wonder how many of us actually come up against competitors when bidding for business?  Some businesses – web designers and graphic designers for example – frequently have to pitch their ideas against others’.  Sometimes people will “shop around” a few different suppliers – is your market like that?

So if that IS your challenge – how do you approach it?  I’ll touch on tendering in a minute – but I’d be surprised if you were happy to be in a situation where the customer is purely driven by price?  (I actively avoid “discounting” or any similar practices).

The hope is that the customer is looking for value (rather than the lowest price) and quality – and also that we have the opportunity to build a relationship with them – many of us will be working very closely with the client – where the rapport is key to success?  Often business comes via referrals which also helps to build the relationship during the sales process.

The tender process larger public organisations is generally driven by price AND quality – and they should disclose the weightings they give to each.  This can be as much as 90/10 – and always in favour of price.  In a tender, in addition to the price, they look for other measures such as quality and compliance, as well as health and safety and sometimes the financial viability of the potential supplier.

This can give us a clue also as to how to approach the sales proposal for a smaller prospect – it’s all about building confidence.  I have definitely won business because they “liked” me more than another supplier, and/or because I built up confidence that I could fulfil the brief.  Equally, I have lost business because I was “too small” and because I was too expensive.  The first one I have to live with, the second I am happy to live with!  (As long as you know you’re not).

Keeping the hard-won customers is just as important as there may be competitors out there trying to get the business – and this is where the relationship that you have built comes in.  Why do I keep coming back to my Travelodge – because the staff go the extra mile to make me happy every time.  (And yes, the price and location are good too).

Finally – I just wanted to touch on other “competitors”.  On many occasions I am the only supplier talking to a business – but I still face competition!  Anything that “competes” for the budget, or for their attention – that means that the project won’t go ahead! And my biggest competitor is – nothing!  I don’t lose the business to any other supplier – they just don’t go ahead at all.  And that can be a failure of the sales process… Qualification!

So – have a think about your “competition”.  And then consider what your strategies are for dealing with them.  And if your competitor copies you – well consider it flattering!

5 minute exercise

Write down three competitors:  one “real” competitor and two others – anything in the customer’s business that could be potential barriers to the work going ahead.

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