Stuart R. Crawford (Calgary, AB - Business Development Manager of IT Matters)
The small business communities in any city across the world are normally very small, tight and communicate with each other frequently. So when I hear of competition bad mouthing other small business IT professionals or consulting firms it is not a big surprise and not uncommon. Does this sort of behaviour benefit your business if you are the one talking down about your competitors? What damage is bad mouthing your competition doing to your own business?
I have been surveying a number of local small businesses in Canada lately and asking them to call a few technology providers in their communities and ask point blank questions about their competition. The results are alarming! Many small business technology consultants are resulting to bashing their competition in the marketplace. Many of these companies fail to realize that these other firms can help them grow and become potential colleagues that can assist them in elevating their own businesses.
Here are basic ideas to help you and your business gain the respect in the marketplace:
Competitors Exist – Like it or not, competitors exist in the marketplace. However, when you dig a little deeper you will see that many of them have skills that your business can leverage to better service your existing clients. I have personally found that it is better to team up with the competitors in my business community. I embrace these relationships and learn how you can work closer together. Many competitors are now my closest friends.
Always stay positive – We are always going to win and lose business, this is just a fact of life in business today. As much as we would like to win all the time, it is not the reality in the world. Sometimes your business is not a fit for the needs of the client or personality’s differences just get in the way. In my experience, it is always the right move to speak highly and show respect to your competitors if you lose a deal to them. When you engage in a negative approach to dealing with a situation where you are not successful, you are only pushing yourself and your business further away from this person and perhaps the potential of working with them in the future.
Sometimes you are not the right fit – Once again, we are not always successful in winning new business; sometimes our competitors have the upper hand in meeting the needs of the prospect. It is important that you lose graciously in this type of situation. I also recommend that you ask some basic questions when you are not successful so that you can do a better job next time, some of these questions include:
- What strengths did you see in the service provider you chose that we can work on?
- What one thing during our process could we have done differently to hit a homerun with you?
- Would you be open to us keeping in touch with us in the event that your needs change in the future?
Constantly evolve – The technology landscape is a constantly changing and evolving landscape, new solutions and ways of doing business are presented every day. Our offerings to the markets we serve must also evolve to meet this changing landscape. The competitor today may not be the competitor tomorrow, the old here today, gone tomorrow. Small Business IT Professionals need to consistently evolve in the services that we provide to our clients and potential clients. Staying true to the old mindset of “we have always done it this way” has sunk more small business specialists in a competitive situation over evolving a finding out what competitive advantage you have over the other firms.
The grass is not greener on the other side – The grass may not always be greener at the competitor’s office as well. This is why keeping the lines of communication open with your competitors may present opportunities to engage in merger or acquisition activities in the future. With the shrinking available talent pool, many of your competitors are in the same boat as you are with finding resources in your community. They may just welcome the opportunity to work closer together.
Congratulate your competitor – I have always found it to be a classy move to ensure that you congratulate your competitor when they win in a competitive situation against you. This is one way that you can start to develop a wonderful relationship with others in the marketplace.
Join your local User Group – Get out and network in your community, you local user group or professional organization is a great place to meet the leaders in your community. Many of the leading technology partners will be involved in their local user group and they are looking at partnering, learning, and sharing information and opportunities with others in the community. This is where you learn who is who in your local area. Also, you may also find out that golden nugget that will provide you with that competitive advantage that may just win you additional business.
The technology community is an exciting world to be involved in; there are many companies in geographies across the world that are looking at teaming up with you and learning from the skills that you have to offer. When you approach the competitive landscape with the mindset of abundance, your firm will gain the respect in the market, you will have the exposure required with the vendors needed to get the assistance you are looking for and most importantly learn from what others are doing and how you can grow your corporation.
Don’t sink the level of bad mouthing the competition in your marketplace, instead, embrace what your strengths are and focus on what you can offer. You will win the respect of those you are dealing with, the prospects that you are talking to and become a winner in the eyes of everyone that you deal with. Winners constantly win will losers continue to lose and wonder why they lose.