Beat the Competition, but in a NICE Way!

Ours is a world of tough competitors (to borrow a phrase from Jerry Maguire). Today we have to worry about offshore printers, Internet low-cost providers and office supply companies, not to mention the freight carriers FedEx and UPS. Our goals are to keep margin, keep our customers satisfied and continue to find new revenue streams to keep us healthy.

But what I want to discuss today is our attitude about all of those competitors. And if I had to put it in a nutshell—in two words—I would say, HIGH GROUND. Here are a few fundamentals I tried to adhere to as much as possible when I was selling, and I encourage you to do likewise:

1. Don’t say your competitor’s name out loud. Now, if the prospect or customer introduces the topic, you can follow, but never introduce it. Try to steer away from it and keep the conversation focused on your company’s value and how you can help solve problems for your customers and prospects.

2. Do everything you can to avoid saying anything bad. Sure you have strong feelings about your competition, and much of that might be negative. And, when they are slinging mud, it might be human nature to join them in the slop. But don’t. You can make comments that are based in fact, such as BBB ratings, factual testimonials made regarding the performance of your competition’s offering or published third-party assessments like The Buyers’ Laboratory. But keep your comments clean and positive.

3. Focus on the differentiating factors. If your competition’s price is lower, face it head on and explain very clearly why what you are offering is worth more. It might be image quality, creative services, better turnaround time, service or environmental commitment. Know what the competitor’s “strengths” are apt to be, and answer and rebut those supposed advantages.

For example, if I were a printer competing with an on-line company that is a supposed low-cost provider, I would focus on customer support, the ability to see a proof, the low cost (or free) shipping that comes with doing business locally and the overall personal relationships that do not exist when you are dealing with a lights-out, gang-run shop. I would be able to explain what gang running is and what lights-out means, and tell my prospect why dealing with me brings security, flexibility and increased value due to a long range commitment to partnership.

Now working as a consultant, Kelly sold digital printing for 15 years so she understands the challenges, frustrations and pitfalls of building a successful sales practice. Her mission is to help printers of all sizes sell more stuff. Kelly's areas of focus include client recovery, retention and acquisition, and marketing communications projects.
Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science and, among other notable accomplishments, co-founded the Windy City Rollers, a professional women's roller derby league.

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  • http://michellespurlock michelle spurlock

    Enjoyed and agree with your article but was not familiar with the term “lights-out” printing and had to do a quick search, which seemed to be emphasizing the pros for the printer and not the cons for the consumer. Could you please expand on this?

    Thanks in advance.

  • http://Denise Denise

    There’s also the sales rep that doesn’t dress professional. I find it to be disrespectful when I invite a sale rep to do a capabilites presentations, or to be part of a planning meeting, and they appear in a golf shirt & casual pants, or a dress that is “weekend” attire. Particularily when they know our company’s dress policy is business attire and everyone else in the room is wearing a suite.

  • http://Kelly Kelly

    Hi Michelle and Thanks for your message!
    My understanding and use of the phrase “lights out printer” refers to an operation that offers little to no customer service and typically gang runs all the work, similar to a Vistaprint type of business.

    My point was that these types of operations do not offer the same personalized service that other shops do, and that we as printers have to capitalize on all the differentiating factors that tell consumers how our businesses are different. Hope that clears it up for you, and I welcome your further comments!

  • http://BillBarry Bill Barry

    Lights out printing refers to printing without human intervention. “Machines don’t need to see, humans do” automation in workflow allows for less or no touches. If there is an error or mistake, there is no one looking at the job to correct it before it ships.