Knock the competition... yeah, that's a great business development strategy!

Knock the competition… yeah, that’s a great business development strategy!

One of the first rules that I learnt in sales was ‘don’t knock the competition’. It makes you look petty and gives the impression that your product (whatever that is) isn’t good enough to stand on its own two feet and beat the competition in a direct comparison.

So why is it that recently there has been so much emphasis on making statements about how bad your competition is in servicing its clients?

Is this the ‘Trump’ effect?

What makes it worse is that a lot of this information is also totally untrue. A recent example was an online tech recruitment company stating that by utilising a recruiter, the client company will reduce a candidate’s salary by the introduction fee it will be paying.

Talk about ‘fake news’.

Now I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t be completing a competitor SWOT analysis — especially on your top 3 — but once you have identified their weaknesses, it’s about selling against that, without even having to point it out to your prospective customers, clients and candidates alike.

I’m amazed at the amount of consultants I speak with that state very confidently “I don’t worry about what my competitors are doing… I just focus on me!” In what way does this make you a consultant?

Think of a medical consultant – how confident would you be going to this doctor to find out what’s wrong with you and they say “Don’t worry about what new techniques or medicine is out there that could help your situation, I just worry about what I do and have been doing for many years”. Is this the consultant that you’d choose?

So, what is a good approach when selling against competitors?

1. Focus on your own USPs (unique selling points), UCDs (unique core differentials), HVP (high-value proposition) or whatever term you want to call them. What is it that you or your company do really well and how will that help the customer’s bottom line?

2. With regards to bottom line, think in terms of helping them save time, money and hassle or increasing their productivity, confidence or profile.

3. Do monthly research on your competitors. What are their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in terms of;

  1. Length of years trading
  2. Average length of service of the team
  3. Staff attrition rates
  4. Customer service perception
  5. Sectors they work in
  6. Skills shortages in those markets
  7. Unique service offerings
  8. Location
  9. Clients they already supply
  10. T & Cs
  11. Turnover & profits
  12. Charge and pay rates
  13. Customer retention
  14. Management and leadership skills

4. How to find the above information? Ask! Your clients and candidates are a huge source, but with sites such as Google reviews and Glassdoor etc. you can see what people’s perceptions are. Always remember that these views are one person’s opinions and can be very different to another’s experience.

5. Keep a record of the information that you find out. Keep it in a centralised location that all staff can contribute to.

6. Target consultants with identifying a certain amount of market information on their competitors per month, to be shared with the team and discussed in their monthly performance review.

7. If you’re looking to expand your business, then focus on your own existing clients first and make sure that it’s very unlikely for a competitor to get in. Then work on the lapsed clients that you’ve supplied in the past, but haven’t done for a while for whatever reason. Make sure you’re highlighting your strengths in relation to your competitor’s weaknesses.

8. The next target market should be those that are already utilising other recruiters. Half the task has been achieved for you, so you’ve just got to convince them to use you instead of your competitor. How can you do this if you don’t know why they’re using them in the first place?

9. Now there’s a lot of potential customers to target, so which ones first. The one using the large multi-nationals or corporates, the one using the local independent? Actually, it could be any of these and all in between; you focus on the customers using the competitor with the most weaknesses… it will be easy to sell against them, without even having to raise those issues to the customer.

10. The final point is it’s no good to do this for a month or two and then not carry on. Your company changes constantly and so do your competitors. Their service is only as good as the consultants delivering it and therefore if that consultant leaves, the customers can potentially receive a totally different experience the next week.

Angela Cripps

Angela Cripps has worked within the recruitment industry for over 25 years and runs Connemara UK Ltd. Her career started as a recruitment consultant, where she recruited both temporary and permanent staff for Blue Arrow in Catering, Industrial, Healthcare and Commercial sectors. She is now an Executive Coach, Mentor, NED and Trainer for the recruitment industry.

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