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Your Clients’ Competitors Are Your Leads

    • 1179 posts
    February 8, 2018 9:31 PM PST

    Sound advice from our friend and sales trainer Phil Bernstein:

    Your Clients' Competitors Are Your Leads

    Are you avoiding a great source of new business?

    If you’re not talking to your clients’ competitors, you’re wasting a big opportunity.

    Competitors are a great sales opportunity

    Photo by Andy Dean

    It’s One You May Have Created

    About a year ago, a Midwest optometry practice started a television and digital advertising campaign, using a creative idea my company gave them. It worked really well — their practice grew by over 30% over the next year.
    Where did that business come from?
    Recently, I met with one of that practice’s rivals. As the meeting progressed, it became clear he was in pain — his business was down almost 40% over the same period .
    He constantly saw his competition — our partner station’s client — on the air, taking money out of his pocket. He wanted to start his own television and digital campaign.

    Your Customers’ Competitors
    Are Great Sales Leads

    When you put a new advertiser on the air, and the campaign works, it affects the rest of the market.
    Advertising ripples through the water of the marketplace

    Photo by Mark Ross

    Sometimes advertising creates new demand for a product or service, but in many cases existing demand shifts from one vendor to another.
    When your client gains revenue, some of that money would have otherwise gone to a competitor down the street. 
    The guys down the street now need help. You can help them.
    Should you call?

    Is It Ethical to Work With Competing Businesses?

    If advertisers can work with your competitors, you can work with theirs. It's only fair.

    If you’re doing your job right, you’re building good relationships with your clients. They may share confidential business information with you. You get to know the office staff, and sometimes their families. 
    Would it be right to start working with their enemies?
    Yes, it would. Here’s why:
    Every day, your customers are talking with your competitors.
    They meet with radio reps, TV reps, billboard salespeople, advertising agencies — the people trying to take money out of your pocket.
    Every day, your clients share their information with these people, and review proposals from them.
    They have every right to do this. And here’s the corollary:
    If they can work with your competitors, you can work with theirs. 
    Fair is fair.


    But You Have to Do It Ethically

    Never lie about what you’re doing. There’s no need to volunteer the information, but if an auto dealer asks you if you’re working with any other auto dealers, answer honestly. If you lie, they’ll find out eventually.
    Keep everything you learn confidential. Your customers trust you, and will share proprietary information with you — revenue figures, business challenges, promotional plans.
    If they know that you’re working with the other guys, they may ask about the other guys’ plans. Never give that information up. The correct answer to the question is, “I’d never tell them anything about you, and I can’t tell you anything about them.”
    Don’t give the same creative or promotional idea to both of them. If two competitors run identical ads on your station, it will not turn out well for you.
    If one of them turns the idea down, feel free to bring it to the other one.  Before you do, give the first one a final chance with this line:
    This is a great idea, and that’s why we gave you an exclusive first shot at it. Just so you know… now that you’ve turned it down, we’re going to be showing it to the competition. It’s too good to go to waste.”

    Sometimes You Just Can’t

    In the vast majority of cases, it’s your right and your responsibility — to your company and to your own bank account — to work with anyone you choose.
    There are, however, a few exceptions:
    • When you’ve spent a great deal of time and energy on specific strategies to go after a particular competitor, it may not feel right to work with that company, too. 
    • When you’ve built an exceedingly close relationship with one major client, and that company represents a major part of your income, the opportunity may not be worth the risk.
    If you just can’t bring yourself to call on the competitor, don’t let the opportunity evaporate. Pass the lead to a co-worker, along with any information you can ethically give them.
    You’ll be making a deposit in the Karma Bank, and one of these days it’ll pay you back with interest.

    Phil Bernstein trains radio and television Account Executives and staffs on how to sell advertising the right way. Want to know more? Check out Phil’s new free resource, Sales Call 101!

    Sign up here to get Phil's blog updates - a great read for anyone in sales! - delivered right to your inbox.

    This post was edited by Rebecca Hunt at February 8, 2018 9:36 PM PST