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Beating incumbents is about more than relationships

Have you ever talked to a prospective customer or looked at an RFP and felt they had a particular solution in mind? No, you are not paranoid. But, yes, you are late to the party. And I hate to tell you this, but you’ve probably already lost. Your energy would be better suited to making and closing new opportunities.

In these situations, it’s easy to chalk that up to a competitor with a larger sales force or deeply entrenched relationships, which are both valid. But let’s go a little deeper. It’s not just the relationships that beat you at the game.

Winning business occurs on one of two tracks. First the long-standing relationship track. That’s usually why incumbents win. They have been around a long time, and even if their solution is not perfect, they typically get top ranking when it’s time to make comparisons. The second track is differentiation.

On the surface, differentiation helps you win business because it sets you apart from the pack. That’s great for the members of your audience who are ready to buy today. But did you know that a tiny percentage—10% or less have defined a pain and are actively looking for a solution?

So, what about the other 90%? It’s not that they don’t have a problem; they likely don’t know there is a solution or are just living with the pain.

That is why it’s not just about relationships. This is where things get fun! When you are clear about what makes you special at solving a problem, you can define a need when the client isn’t looking to buy and put yourself in that top position when they do become ready.

For example, I just bought a $1,200 automation tool for my business from a company I had never heard of for a problem I didn’t know could be solved so easily. When the rep showed me how they could give me my most precious resource (time!) back, I was all in. The company had taken the time to truly understand a pain point (or one on the horizon) and, more importantly, all the reasons why I had not taken action to solve it.