How I Lost Because of Competitive Ignorance
I had prepared for weeks and the big day had arrived.
- Market research… Check.
- Competitive advantage… Check.
- Financial analysis… Check.
- Proven market-share… Check.
I was perfectly prepared, or so I thought.
Many years ago I was sitting in a conference room and anxiously anticipating the biggest sales pitch of my life. I knew my numbers would win the day. I educated myself of the struggles that my potential client was facing and had solutions prepared for them. I even stepped up a bit and dressed the part.
I stood as high level executives, dressed the way I was dressed, walked into the office. The standard introductions were made and we took our seats and engaged in a great discussion. For the next 90 minutes I answered questions about my staffing company’s history, locations, size, expertise, industries served, value, price, customer service, customization, marketing, asset availability and other important topics. I was on fire! I could see that they were thoroughly impressed with my preparation and even more impressed what we could offer. I was sure I had em!!
The 90 minutes flew by until that last comment fell from the senior most executive’s lips, “We are evaluating many companies to meet our needs and we will let you know within a few short days who we award the contract to.” Again, pleasantries were exchanged and I left the conference room with a smile on my face.
I still remember everything about that sales moment. The clutter on the desk, the slightly crooked pictures hanging on the wall, and the plastic aroma coming from the production area. I recall with clarity the exact pricing and I even recall how impressed the executives were knowing how closely our services aligned with their needs.
Then, a short time later, from the other end of the phone line came these words, “Reed, you have a very impressive company and its was an honor getting to know you, however, we have decided to maintain our relationship with our current provider, we will reach out to you if anything changes.”
What just happened?!
I was suffering from “Competitive Ignorance.” My market plan, price point and services were superior and I was ignorant enough to think that I would get the deal based on the fact that I was way better on paper. I was ignorant to think that my numbers would trump a long lasting relationship. The winner, that day had long lasting relationship that superseded every advantage I had. I spent all my time preparing for a financial discussion and proving our value and lost. Lost big!
Relationships are, in my experience the single most important ingredient for gaining and maintaining a competitive advantage. Branding, marketing strategies, price, adaptation, ingenuity, and service all play a supplemental role to relationships.
This experience quickly taught me that relationships build confidence, confidence builds trust and trust builds relationships. Strong relationships will tell you where your shortcomings are and give you time to fix them, and in most cases will even help you improve where you need it.
I will forever be grateful for that humbling experience. It echo’s in my business psyche almost daily, reminding me that my clients need more than fancy spreadsheets, balloons and confetti. They need relationships.
But the Story Doesn't End There
Fast forward 8 years… I was experiencing “sales déjà vu” meeting with the same group in the same room answering the same questions… But this time, I had 7+ years of relationship building under my belt and this time I wasn’t ignorant to the importance of relationships. I was perfectly prepared and…. I WON!
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