Many people tend to think about competitors as enemies or adversaries. According to Bob Burg, author of the recently-published Adversaries into Allies, it's more useful and practical to visualize competitors as your allies.

"From time to time there may be situations where a customer would be better served by buying from a competitor than from you," Burg explains. "If your true goal is to help your customers, that competitor just becomes another way you can be of service."

According to Burg, two things happen when you reframe your competitors as your allies.

First, your customer will never forget that you put their interests ahead of your own. As a result, they'll think of you as a resource rather than merely a vendor. When a need comes up that's anywhere near your bailiwick, you'll get the first call.

Second, by referring business to your competitor, you're giving that competitor the opportunity to do the same for you. "A competitor may or may not do this but you are now giving your competitor the opportunity to bring you new business.

To make this strategy work, you need to do three things:

  1. Put the customer first. Studies show that the most successful salespeople are those who can put their own needs (like sales goals) aside and concentrate instead on what each customer really needs.
  2. Know your industry. You can't possibly determine whether a customer is better served elsewhere if you don't know what "elsewhere" has to offer.  Therefore, you should keep abreast of development in your industry, especially competitive offerings.
  3. Sell unique value. Most important, you must understand and be able to clearly articulate how your offering is different.  When you know why and when it's best to buy from you, you can more easily see when and where you add unique value.

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