A senior executive who came to American Express after 10+ years at Pepsi told us a great story on his first day at the company:
“I took my six-year old daughter to a birthday party in our neighborhood. At one point, one of her friends reached for a can of Coke on the table and was about to drink it when my daughter reached out and smacked the can right out of the little boy’s hands just as he was about to take a sip. ‘Don’t drink that,’ she scolded him. ‘Don’t you know it’s poison!!”
The little girl had grown up with a dad who was – apparently – quite maniacal about his hatred for the competition, so much so that it permeated his family life. By telling that story, he was making it clear that he expected us to share that competitive mindset.
By continuously fostering the four actions below, you will create a competitive mindset that keeps your sales and servicing teams focused on a results-based culture leading to more wins in the marketplace.
Keep your customers close and your competitor’s customers closer – One of the most intriguing initiatives I witnessed at my former employer was the division president’s inclusion of a competitor’s customer on his President’s Advisory Board. The board was set up as a feedback loop for product strategy, pricing, positioning, features, etc. Including a competitor’s customer was his way of insuring we never lost sight of how our main competitor was positioning their product against us.
Develop effect sell against strategies for every important competitor – The product management or marketing organization should produce a sell-against sheet for every important competitor. Sales and servicing teams should be trained on the information from the sheets and taught how to use them to respond to competitive threats. The information should include, at the least, SWOT for each competitive product, pricing, list of important customers and a listing of feature/functionality gaps (both positive and negative relative to your product/service). (Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post with more detail on effective sell-against strategies)
Loyalty is dead. Build a better product – expecting customers to continue to invest in your products/services out of a sense of loyalty is absurd. The best way to ensure your customers remain customers is to build a better product and service it better than your competition. Ensure product features remain ahead of the competition. Focus on overall usability. Avoid radical changes that give customers reason to disrupt their current experience. These initiatives will give your customers no reason to seek other solutions.
The real competition is the status quo - Studies have concluded that around 60% of business is lost, not to competitive products/services, but to inaction, i.e., maintaining the status quo. The most important thing to accomplish in order to defeat the status quo is to demonize it. Provide undeniable proof that doing nothing is much riskier than doing something. Move a client into a buying cycle by painting a risky picture of inaction.