Competing with Bigs, Mom-n-Pops & In-Betweens

by Chris Arlen on June 28, 2010

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CompetingFacility service contracts don’t exist in a vacuum.

There’s always competition. Those you know about, and those that come out of the woods at the 11th hour.

Isn’t it tempting to tell customers what you really think about your competition?

While giving vent to your innermost feelings may be therapeutic for the moment, successful business lives another way.

Competitive Positioning

Here’s several thoughts for talking about the competition in ways that will help you get more contracts.

#1 Never bad-mouth the competition

Enough said.

#2 Your Strengths Highlighting Others’ Weaknesses

Always present your strengths that highlight competitors’ weaknesses.

Connect the dots so your conversation about your goodness raises questions in customers’ minds about others’ vulnerabilities.

For example:

When you’re major competitor is a large national contractor, one with rigid chains of command and slow to respond, you may talk with customers about:

“You would be one of our largest customers, actually you’d have “preferred-client status”, which we only give to our top 3 customers. That means our President will return your call within 4 hours. It means we have the flexibility to adjust service on the fly as you need it. It means our site manager has authority to spend $100k on the spot in serving your account, no pre-approval. Higher investments are assessed and answered within 24 hours”.

Whether you name your competition is up to you. There’s always a chance you may introduce a new contractor to your customer who hadn’t known about them until you put your foot in your mouth. But that’s up to you.

#3 Proactively Defend Your Weaknesses with Workarounds

Proactively defend your weaknesses by presenting a workaround as a strength, don’t wait to be asked.

If you bring it up with a positive workaround that weakness now becomes a strength. It takes away your competitors undercutting you later.

For example:

If you don’t have a local branch office, but tell customers:

“We’re project based, our site management is based at your site. This means we don’t have to cover costs of branch office overhead – and you get managers focused solely on your needs, quickly and reliably”.

#4 Pre-bid Talking Strategy

Prior to the bid going out, there may be the opportunity to speak with various decision makers and learn about their situation.

Part of those conversations will be answering their questions about “why should we use you”?

So you’ll trot out your trusted list of competitive advantages.

And so will your competitors. They’ll be sitting where you are in a few days, or even hours. Nothing takes place in a vacuum.

So why not put them in the hot seat?

Add these talking points to your good ole competitive advantage lists.

–> Competing against Bigger competitors

Tell your story about your:

* Flexibility – create/deliver ad hoc, non-contract services
* Responsiveness – quickly take action & resolve issues
* Caring – focused on that customer because they’re important (big) to you
* Customization – designing one-off solutions to customer needs

–> Competing against Mom-n-Pop competitors

Let customers know you have and use:

* Leading technology
* Service best-practices
* Highly-effective operational procedures
* Experience & qualified management
* Backup resources
* Financial stability

–> Competing against In-Betweens

Apply steps #2 and #3 above as you’ll need to be more specific about who you’re competing against.

Summary

These informal and formal conversations influence decision makers’ perceptions. That counts when they’re reviewing your proposal and they’re deciding the fate of the contract award.

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Chris Arlen
President,  Revenue IQ

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