Knowing your competition is just as important as knowing your customer.

Let me illustrate the point by calling forth a brief tale of high intrigue and the clash of arms from the chronicles of the envelope game…

A manufacturer I know has a major competitor, with a larger and more modern facility, located directly across the street from his own plant. They’re both fine companies, and for years my friend was rankled by the fact that his competitor was the sole supplier to one of the area’s Fortune 500/NYSE-listed companies. Though he was always willing to accept the proposition that no account was locked up forever, he couldn’t dislodge the competition and crack this prospect. He tried all the standard ploys. And he got nowhere.

Then he decided to try a different approach, and instead of concentrating on the customer he focused on his competition.

Did they have a weakness that played to one of his strengths?

It turned out they did. The prospect had expanded operations in the South. When he analyzed the competition, he realized that their closest plant was in New York. He had a plant in Birmingham, Alabama. Did he use that information to gain a competitive edge? You can bet your last #10 envelope he did. It was obvious that his competitor couldn’t match him in price or service in that particular area.

The next time one of my friend’s reps walked into the prospect’s office, he was able to offer a package for the southern operation that gave him his first major inroads into the account and left his competitor in the dust.

He never would have won the account if he had kept his attention solely on his prospect. His unwillingness to believe his competitor was invincible led him to develop sufficient knowledge of his competitor’s operations to cause him to seize the initiative and close the sale.

Unless you have a unique product or service competition is a fact of life. You must deal with it. The best way is to gather what knowledge you can and then act.

Organize the information you have on your competition and turn it into a competitive advantage by using my 12 Ps Competitive Profile.

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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