The Coach's Corner

Sandbox “Hunters” Game Plan: But We’re Different

December 7th, 2015 // Dan Doescher //

Dan Doescher photo & Sandbox Partners logo

Many years ago I asked my wife, Jan, if she thought I was competitive. The look on her face said it all. I got it. I’m as competitive as most.

Admit it — you think your business is different from everyone else. That’s great; it’s an important mindset. Equally significant, however, is how you respond to competition.

Robert B. Miller and Stephen E. Heiman’s book, The New Strategic Selling, acknowledges the need for being aware of the competition, but warns of the danger of sending an unintended “reactive/me-too” message to a potential new customer/client (we’ll call them the “target”), rather than the preferred “better than” position. The authors note the potential negative repercussions of too much focus on competition:

  1. It allows the competition to write the rules of the game.
  2. It advertises your weaknesses, not your strengths.
  3. It invites price-slashing.
  4. It makes you look unimaginative or uncreative.
  5. It deflects attention from the target’s concerns.

I also like their definition of the “competition”:

  1. They buy from someone else.
  2. They use internal resources.
  3. They use their budget for something else.
  4. They do nothing.

This provides a broader view of the potential barriers you may need to address.

In sports, playing offense is essential to winning. Proactively focusing on leveraging your differences is critical. Ultimately, you want your target to see that you know what differentiates you from all other options.

In my previous blog (see November 30, 2015, What We Do and How We Do It), I suggested doing a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT) analysis. Focusing on your strengths is how you begin developing what really sets you apart from your competitors.

Begin by listing the features of what you do and how you do it that you think makes you stand out/differentiates you from all others. Then succinctly describe how your differences have created benefits to existing customers/clients. Documenting actual cases where customers/clients have benefited from these factors can be potentially powerful information that you’ll want to share with targets.

As always, it’s beneficial to have your key team members involved in developing this type of information. More importantly, it’s critical that your team is fully aware of these differences, embraces them, and easily communicates them to current customers/clients as well as targets.

Incidentally, if you don’t think you’re different, or you haven’t given it much thought, it’s time to consider the possibilities and related implications.

Next post: Do You Know Your “10” When You See It?

Tom’s editorial comment: If, while you’re reading this series, you believe Dan could be helpful to your company, please contact him directly at, or 248-701-8787.

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The Advisor’s Corner

Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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