Sales Prospecting, Working Smarter

Turn Your Business Competition Into Valuable Allies

direct competitionI used to hate my direct competitors—every last one of them. They were evil. They were after me, trying to steal my best prospects and clients. My guard was up whenever they were around. 

Then one day something changed. I was months into the worst slump of my career. Yes, I said months. The future looked grim; I honestly wasn't sure I was going to make it.

Perhaps it takes a bit of desperation to open one's mind to new ideas -- and a book. I don't remember the title, but it was about creating partnerships. Not the legally entangled kind that take months to hammer out at the corporate level. No. This was about one-to-one alliances with people in related professions. 

It got me thinking and then acting. Within months, I created two separate groups. One was focused on a specific business challenge in which I had expertise -- product launch. I invited a group of related experts (branding, inside sales, research, website) to get together to explore how we might help each other.

After several meetings and lots of discussion, we decided to put on a 1-day product launch seminar. We divvied up the work, marketed it to our combined databases and put on the event. The result? Lots of good PR, plus net new business for all.

Concurrently, I pulled together a group of women in sales and marketing. This one really scared me. Some of the ladies were, at least in my mind, direct competitors. (Turns out they weren't.) We met monthly to talk about opportunities and to get to know each other better. The result? Most of us got new business. 

Creating a community of business competitors is a strategy whose time has come—for lots of reasons. It's a big world out there. There are lots of opportunities, if we open our mind to them. And, when you're acting alone, it's tough to uncover them. The truth is, you're probably only aware of a small percent of the decision-making population at any one time.

Being involved in a community increases your reach exponentially. Your shared connections are much vaster than your own network. And, because you have regular conversations with group members, your trust level skyrockets. They're much more likely to bring you into a potential business opportunity. That's a big deal today because it's so darn hard to get your foot in the door. 

Fast forward 10 years. A few weeks ago, I attended the 2013 Sales SheBang conference. Attendees are women sales experts (authors, speakers, trainers, coaches and consultants) from across North America and Australia.   

Sales Shebang 2013

We get together to share our best practices and business growth ideas. We identify complimentary areas of expertise, so we can best leverage each other's talents. And, best of all, we've created a community that's supportive both personally and professionally. 

So here's my challenge to you. Start your own community of business competitors. Ask yourself:

  • Who offers related products and services to mine? 
  • How can I connect with them? 

LinkedIn is a starting place. So are local networking events. Or, you might even want to ask your prospects and customers: What other products/services do you buy? That'll give you a clue who to reach out to. 

And then, quit wasting time. Call your group together and get going. 

After a successful career in the sales world, writing five books, and speaking internationally, Jill is now tackling an even bigger challenge. She's focused on bringing the "millions in the middle" together to solve some of the biggest issues facing our country and the world. Jill truly believes so much more is possible if we can work together.