WE TRAIN our employees on policies, procedures and a myriad of other things that are essentially minor in the scheme of the big picture.  One thing most companies never train their teams on is the competition.  Beyond that, in most businesses, if you even utter the competitor’s name, everyone in the room gasps and it’s almost as if you said the worst word known to man.

If you look at the techniques of the most successful athletes and sports teams, you’ll find that they spend hours studying the competition, watching films of past games and learning their plays.  They study their opponents’ strengths, weaknesses and strategies.  In business, the game is the same.  If you are blind to what else is out there, you are only setting yourself up for failure and committing company suicide.

This day in age, technology is so advanced and user-friendly, your customers can, and do, research, compare and contrast your company or product with a number of similar entities in a matter of minutes or even seconds in the palm of their hand before they have even set foot outside of the comfort of their home.

As Charlie Schumacher, from the 1994 hit movie, “The Mask,” would say, “everybody is looking for the BBD—the bigger, better deal.”  If you don’t know what else is out there, you’re not going to be able to successfully explain why you’re better than other companies or their products.  Consumers are smart and if you don’t know your market, they will, and if you can’t keep up with them, your chances of getting the sale and keeping their trust is slim-to-none.

As a part of your regular routine as a manager or business owner, you should study the competition just like New York Giants quarterback, Eli Manning, studied New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, before the 2012 Super Bowl.  Read their ads, visit their website, and even secret shop them by phone and in person.  It is crucial you understand what the customers are experiencing and put yourself in their shoes so you can not only meet that expectation, but exceed it in your own way.  Even if you find your product or service isn’t quite up to par, you have the opportunity to either amend the issue or if that isn’t possible, which sometimes it isn’t, you will be able to compensate in some other area that will attract business and keep customers coming back from more.  

We all know that hole-in-the-wall pizza joint that has the best pepperoni pizza in town, but you have to pay in cash and sit at a dirty little table outside to enjoy it.  That is where you can find opportunities and create your niche.

Once you’ve done your homework and have put some strategies in place, TELL YOUR TEAM!  All that work is worthless if you don’t clue your employees in on your findings.  Educate them on the competition and train them to communicate the benefits of your business in a positive light and combat any possible objections from the customer without any surprises.  

Please note that if you are going to display product knowledge in the marketplace, NEVER put down or speak negatively about another company in front of the customer.  In order to build trust, you must speak candidly to the customers as if you were speaking to a friend. Present the facts and ultimately let them decide. After all, they are the bosses.  If they do, for some reason, decide to go elsewhere, chances are, because you’ve done your homework and researched the competition, they will come back to you because you are someone they can trust.