Who’s your real competition?

Who’s your real competition?

For many business-to-business (B2B) services and solutions, your main competition is often not what you think it is. When I speak with clients and ask them who their competition is I’ll usually get a couple of common responses. The first response is “we don’t have any competition”. Unless you’re truly in a monopoly (which I doubt) then I’m afraid you’re wrong. What this response usually means is that they are in such a fragmented market they rarely, if ever, come up against the same competitor twice. The second common response is to reel off a list of names of well-researched competitors. And typically it’s a list of who you think are your competitors, rather than who your marketthinks. But I rarely hear anyone mention the two most common competitors faced by nearly every B2B solution provider out there. They are:
  • Doing it themselves
  • Doing nothing
Partly this is because most people think about competitors rather than alternatives. Unless you’re in a service where there’s some regulation against a company doing the job in-house, such as an external audit service, then a key competitor you have is the alternative of doing it themselves. Even for products and technology solutions, doing it themselves equates to using some home-grown alternative. It may not be as good as your offering, but it works to some degree and they think they’re getting on fine without you. The second alternative is even more prevalent – doing nothing. Unless there’s a real compelling need, deadline or “burning platform”, any company can simply put off doing anything. There’s always another priority grabbing their attention. In fact, the single biggest issue I see in many B2B sales pipelines are stalled deals that have just gone off the boil. Did you lose to a competitor? No, they just did nothing. OK, so what? One of the reasons many people ignore these two alternatives is they assume “that’s just how it is”. Not every deal is going to happen. And, in many companies, it’s usually only the deals where there’s significant client momentum that get across the line. These are the deals that are yours to lose. And, if you’ve got more leads and business than you can handle, maybe you don’t need to think any further about this. But by highlighting these alternatives it widens the focus of your marketing and sales efforts to addressing them as real competitors that can lose you a deal. Is your marketing and sales messaging all about why you’re different to other competitor products and companies? Are you saying about why a company should work with you rather than do it themselves? When it comes to prospects stalling and doing nothing, are you building a compelling enough business case? Can you substantiate a strong ROI based on the business impact the client wants to see? If you know that 50% of deals will stall in your pipeline, how can you change your sales processes? What is it worth to improve that number by, 10%, 20%… or more? For service companies, such as consultancies and agencies, who are struggling with lead generation, the “in-house” issue is typically the number one barrier to opening doors with many of their key prospects. And if you’re staring at the classic hockey-stick sales forecast, with deals constantly being push back into the distant future, you need to seriously address the “do nothing” alternative. Investing time think about how to tackle these often unseen competitors is key to unlocking revenue potential for your business. Published originally by David Regler on LinkedIn in 2015
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