However, if you are proactive in differentiating yourself from your competition you may be able to prevent from uprooting you. Your goal is to create or develop a strategic partnership with your customers instead of the typical vendor/supplier relationship. It’s not an easy task but it can be done.
Here are several strategies you can implement that will help you block your competition and maintain your foothold.
1. Increase the value you bring to the equation. Every time you see, meet, connect or interact with a customer, make sure you add value to the interaction. This can include industry insights or information to help them achieve their goals and objectives or advising them of new trends in the marketplace. It can mean giving them articles, white papers, journals or other information you come across that may be of value to them.
Of course, the only way you can accomplish this is to learn more about each customer’s personal situation. What’s important to them and their business? What business challenges they are experiencing? What business goals and objectives do they want to achieve? What career goals are they striving towards?
Invest time learning these details and you can quickly determine what information will be of most benefit to them.
2. Increase face time. You don’t need to increase the number of appointments sales calls you make. Instead, think of networking events, conferences and trade shows your customer’s may attend and make arrangements to be there too. The great thing about conferences and networking events is that your customer may have more time to talk. They may be more relaxed. And you may be able to have a conversation with fewer interruptions.
However, don’t attend these types of events with the intent of selling. Instead, follow the first suggestion above and think about what you can do to add more value to the interactions with people you connect with.
Also, your time and resources are limited so you need to look at this strategically. Where events do your BEST customer’s attend? Does it make sense for you to be there? I once attended an industry conference that many key decision-makers I wanted to meet attended. I made contact with one person and that connection generated a high-five figure sale.
3. Increase touch points. Many of your customers will accept more contact from you so increase the number of times they receive contact from you. This can include; email, telephone, face-to-face meetings, direct mail, fax, email, etc. Once again, the key is to provide some type of value in each of these contacts. Here are a few suggestions.
You can send articles, handwritten postcards or cards with an interesting business idea. Leave a brief voice mail with an idea to help them improve their business. Send a fax with 10 tips. You can do the same with email—although I suggest that you limit email correspondence for this because it can easily get lost in the noise (the average executive receives approximately 150 emails a day).
Although these strategies sound simple, the execution requires planning and forethought. You need to carve out time in your schedule and target your campaign to EACH customer. However, the investment will pay off when your competitors finally connect with your key contact and they hear something like, “We love our vendor and have no desire to consider a change.”
By the way, you can also use these ideas to edge out a competitor from a company that you would like to add to your roster. Plan your strategy. Be diligent. Be persistent. Be patient. And your competitor may end up hearing, “We’ve decided to try someone else.”