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Does Competition Beat You, Or Are You Beating Yourself?

by David Brock on February 9th, 2010

I love competing and I love winning!  Watching the Super Bowl was great, two great teams who left everything on the field.  No this is not a post about what we can learn from the Super Bowl, but the Saints and the Colts are good examples of great competition.

Competing against a great competitor is great, it raises the level of play, it forces us to compete more strongly–bringing our best game to the situation.  It helps our customers, strong competition should bring better solutions.  Even if we lose, strong competition helps us, we learn from losing, we learn where we can improve and how we get better.  Without this, our performance slips–often to the point that we are beating ourselves.

Too often, I’m not sure that we are beaten by strong competition.  I tend to think we beat ourselves more often—this happens both at an individual performance level and at an organizational level.  Business history is littered with companies that beat themselves–they took their eye off the ball, they failed to understand what customers needed and would buy, they failed to understand who their competition really was, they failed to deliver on their promise—to the customers, shareholders, and employees.  Some chose tragic shortcuts–the Enron’s, Worldcom’s, and others.  Some should have been the best, but didn’t recognize changes in the markets, competition, and customer needs–the DEC’s, Wang’s, and hundreds of others.  Some are struggling, the jury is out about whether they will get it or not, GM, Citibank, and too many others.  You get the point, the list can go on.  These companies lost or are losing, less because of competition, and more because of failure to be able to respond to their customers or the competition.

Sales people do this everyday–in less dramatic ways, but still in important ways.  The sales person who hasn’t really probed and understood what the customer wants and needs.  The sales person who isn’t listening, the sales person who is resting on their past successes–with this customer or in general.  The sales person who fails to develop and execute a winning strategy, but reacts. 

Too often, sales people are careless and sloppy.  They don’t understand what the customer is trying to achieve.  They don’t realize who is really invovled in the decision and how they are perceived, choosing instead to call on their “friends.”  They don’t understand who their real competition is.  They are slow in responding to the customer, they present a standard boilerplate proposal.  They chase the wrong opportunities.  They fail to demonstrate to the customer that they have earned the customer’s business.  They have no strategy, but are doing a random walk through the deal.

Business and sales is tough.  To win, you have to bring your “A” game, every day.  If you don’t, it won’t be your competition that beats you, you will be beating yourself.

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