By Paul Reilly
On a recent flight home, I noticed something. We reached our cruising altitude; the ride was smooth and the skies were clear. Looking out the window, there was nothing but auburn skies as the sun disappeared into the horizon. Unlike the roads on the way to the airport, the sky seemed completely empty. For a brief moment it felt like we were the only plane in the sky. Then suddenly, another plane rockets across the horizon in the opposite direction. We were not alone in the sky.
It’s actually pretty common to see another plane mid-flight. In fact, there are roughly 5000 commercial flights in the air at any given time. In some ways, these 5000 commercial planes are all competing for the most direct route to their destination. When you gaze out the window, it might appear that you’re alone—but you’re not. There are thousands of other planes crisscrossing the sky.
As salespeople, how often do we forget that we are not alone?
Whether your competition is online, next door, or in another state, they are always there. They might be ahead of you, behind you, or by your side, but never assume that you’re alone.
Don’t worry about competition, welcome it. Competition makes you better. Competition creates a positive sense of insecurity. How much harder do you work when you know the competition is right on your heels? Use this positive sense of insecurity to improve.
One of the best ways to improve is to examine your company’s potential. Too many organizations attempt to improve by analyzing their best competitor. While it’s good practice to understand your competition, it can also hamper your improvement efforts. By focusing too much on the competition, you limit yourself to the edge of their creativity. Use your competition as the motivation to improve, not as the benchmark from which you improve.
Conduct a barrier analysis to identify improvement opportunities. Begin with this question, “What does the perfect customer experience look like?” After detailing the perfect end-to-end experience, ask, “What gets in the way of delivering this experience?” Maybe it’s certain policies or lack of product options. In Value-Added Selling, we call this a barrier analysis. You identify what gets in the way of delivering a world-class experience and then you focus on removing those barriers.
Assuming you’re the only option is the height of arrogance. Assuming that your customer relationship is stronger than your competition’s determination is a mistake. Proactively look for ways to create more value. Although the competition might fly under the radar, they are still there…whether you see them or not.