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How to position yourself against your competitors

It's all very well having a competitive edge, but are your prospective clients aware? A key question when you are pitching for business is ˜how do you show your audience how you compare to your competitors?". This often creates a dilemma for pitching teams.

It’s all very well having a competitive edge, but are your prospective clients aware? A key question when you are pitching for business is ‘how do you show your audience how you compare to your competitors?’. This often creates a dilemma for pitching teams.

Should you just tell your audience how good you are and let them do the rest, should you draw direct comparisons with your anonymous competitors or should you name them directly? Perhaps you should let your audience draw their own conclusions?

Our research shows quite clearly that your audience wants to know how you stack up against the competition but naming them directly is rarely (if ever) perceived as positive.

This means you need to be clever and subtle about how you do this. If you are, the benefits are great.

Firstly, you can plant questions in the audience’s mind. These are questions that the audience will ask your competitors and ultimately make you look the best choice.

Secondly, you will be doing this by showing the audience you understand their needs and are best placed to meet them. Thirdly, it can help you win more pitches.

Here is a process that can help you do this:

  • Do a competitor analysis of their strengths and weaknesses
  • Understand your USP’s (unique selling points)
  • Use rhetorical questions for positioning

Here is an example of how this worked for a client who was pitching for a corporate finance mandate. This particular client was initially concerned the audience would choose one of the larger, better known corporate finance teams.

Having noted their initial concerns we explored what their strengths were, what they had to offer and where they could add value.

Our initial discussion disclosed the reason this small team had been invited to pitch was that they were a niche player, operating only in the client’s market. This was excellent news as they were obviously experts in this particular sector.

When we explored this further they told us they had the best analysts in the sector and they could prove this. Believe it or not, there is a published league table of the best analysts. We explored why this was important and advised this was their ace card.

We recommended that, if it was at all possible, to get the first presentation slot. They did just that and we were ready to go. Part of their presentation went like this:

“You are at a critical stage of your personal and business life just now. You are about to take your company to market and you only get one chance to get this right, meaning you get the best price for your business.

Like it or not, to do this you are dependant on the credibility and credentials of the analysts as it is the analysts who sell your story to the investment community and that is where we add value.”

They then proceeded to show the prospective client the evidence, with their analysts right at the top and followed it with this question:

“So, given the credibility of our analysts who else is in a better position to sell your story to investors than us?”

If you were a member of that audience wouldn’t you ask the following presenters where their analysts were in the league table?

You are probably thinking right now that this is only relevant when you can grab that pole position. This is not the case.

On another occasion I helped a client position themselves as a large sole provider of services who could carry out a unique combination of services in a cost effective way.

We prepared a few rhetorical questions for the pitch. “How many times have external providers failed to communicate with each other and blamed the other?” “Who else can provide experts in each and every area necessary?” “Just think, one provider, one contract, the buck stops here, who else can say that?”

I was about to board a flight at the airport when I received a call from my client. “David, we had no choice on the running order and we have just found out we are on last, what should we do differently?”

“Nothing” I replied. “Business as usual, just give it your best shot”.

When I next visited this client they were pleased to announce they won the pitch. In their own words they told me, “We think we planted so many doubts and concerns in the audience’s mind that we became a very safe bet. After all it was too late to ask the others.”

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