Make friends with your competition

The Sales Confidence Skills Series is a range of articles based on insights from our inaugural Sales Confidence live event, staged this September. One of our speakers was Chris Tottman, Partner at the VC firm, Notion Capital. You can read his insights into why salespeople are fascinating here.

The beauty of these events, with such knowledgeable speakers, is that there’s gold even in seemingly throwaway lines. Here’s a little nugget from Chris.

‘At Notion, we’re a really open VC. We actually invite other VC’s to our founder events. They think ‘Ooh, that’s a bit weird’, but we like to bring people together.’

Friendly competition

Chris makes a great point, which we don’t address very much in business, maybe because it goes against our natural instincts. It’s much more beneficial for you to make friends with your competitors than it is to be at war. Here’s why.

Competition drives you

If your company is successful, there will be competition.

Would Apple be where they are now if they didn’t have IBM, Microsoft, Samsung and Google Android and more nipping at their heels? Coca-Cola needs Pepsi. McDonald’s needs Burger King. Even in SaaS, you need your competitors.

Competition drives the best companies to improve their products and services in order to get or stay ahead. The trick is to realise that competition improves the state of your industry as a whole. It creates awareness in the minds of customers and potential customers. Don’t fight your competition, embrace them. Grow the pie, not just your slice of the pie.

It’s better to share

Let’s face it. Are there really any secrets left in business anymore? If there are, they don’t stay secret for long.

In SaaS, there are no secret recipes. If one of your competitors brings out an exciting new product, your tech team could probably replicate pretty quickly if they wanted to. Likewise, your game-changer could be easily copied.

It’s easy to make dummy calls to your competitors to find out their methods, prices, anything else.  Easy, but juvenile.

It’s better to be friends with your competitors. You can share information, saving each other time and effort. If you’re friends with your competitor and you’d like to know how they do something, you can just call up and ask. Transparency and openness can only benefit both sides.

Being friends with your competitors shows a confidence in yourself and your company. It shows that you’re an honest broker, who would rather focus on their own company than crush the opposition. Even from a more cynical point of view, if you’re friends with your competitors, they will be less likely to play any underhand tricks on you.

Look after No1

It was the American playwright Wilson Mizner who said, ‘Be nice to people on your way up, because you’ll meet them on your way down.’

From an individual point of view, it’s better to be on good terms with the people who work in your industry. Who knows what’s around the corner? You may need a favour from them one day. Your opposite number at your competition may one day be a buyer that you want to do a deal with. They may be on the interview panel for the job of your dreams. They may buy your company. You never know.

Make sure when anyone in your industry speaks about you, they speak highly.

Finally, you’ll have more fun this way. You’ll get to go to more lunches, you’ll pick up more business!

Reach out

It’s clear that there are so many benefits to building a strong relationship with your competitors. What can you do to make that happen? Why not give your opposite number at your biggest rivals a call? Schedule a coffee or a lunch. Perhaps invite them to an event your company is holding.

If you’re any good, you’ll always have competitors. They may as well be your mates.

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