What if you're at a networking event and you bump into someone that does what you do?
Of course, if you're a financial advisor, broker, rep, agent, or producer, and you go to an association meeting in your industry, you expect to bump into others in your profession. But usually at meetings like that, your goal is to learn, improve the profession and/or industry, socialize, or perhaps give back in some way.
Heck, you may find yourself in a bitter struggle for territory. Power. Control. Rights. Success. Revenge. Freedom. Kind of like outlaws. Bikers. Street gangs. Mafia families. Warlords. Drug cartels. Late night talk show hosts. Turf wars, baby!
The reality is, you can't make your competitors go away. Just ask Letterman! But you can make the best out of a less than perfect situation. And, if the competition makes you better at what you do, everybody wins. Including your clients. If nothing else, competitors that are more successful than you show you what is possible.
When it comes to the competition, here are some seven suggestions to consider!
Do Your Homework
When possible, before going to events, learn about who will be in attendance. This way, you can determine if it even makes sense to register. Depending on the size of the event, one competitor shouldn't make a difference. But if it does, you can opt out and go to another event. If it doesn't make a difference to you (for whatever reason) then, when meeting your counterpart, simply be social and use the opportunity to compare notes. Be positive, upbeat, and complimentary. Keep the lines of communication open. You never know!
There's Enough Business for Everyone
In most cases, there's enough apple pie for everyone. And another whole pie right behind that! You couldn't possible service every client in your marketplace, but it is fun to think about. If most of your focus is to work with small business owners, do a search for all the small businesses in your particular geography (maybe within a 50-mile radius) and you'll see what I mean. Remember, there are only so many hours in day. Relax and have some pie.
Create a Niche
If you can focus on a specific industry, profession, marketplace, geography, demographic, or dynamic, you can become a big fish (in some cases the only fish) in a much smaller pond. I just finished a one-day seminar on power-lifting through my Crossfit gym (or box as we call it). Diane Fu, the woman that taught the seminar, traveled to NJ from San Francisco. She also ran full day seminars in Philadelphia and Boston before traveling home. Since everyone paid for the seminar, she made a good piece of change. Diane created a powerful niche that has given her celebrity status in the world of Crossfit. What pond should you be fishing in?
If you happen to find yourself face to face with a competitor, use it as an opportunity to compare notes and discuss best practices. Be open and honest. In some cases, you may find that you aren't direct competitors and there is only some overlap. Maybe they're industry specific or deal with a different type of client. They could be in a different phase of their career. Perhaps there are opportunities to do joint work or refer one another business for various reasons. If it becomes awkward or weird to speak with someone that seems to do what you do, offer them good luck and simply move on.
Always be Complimentary
Saying great things about others in your field makes you look good. Never be disrespectful or speak negatively about those that might be in your profession. In fact, try not to be negative about anyone period! It makes you appear unsure of yourself and jealous. Offer a compliment when possible and talk about the things you know they do well if appropriate. Here's the exception. If a colleague is going to do business with someone that you know lacks ability and/or ethics, that's a good time to say, "I don't mean to come across as unprofessional about one of my counterparts. But may I share something with you in good faith?"
If you're part of the local chamber or another networking related group, get involved with a committee, serve on a Board, be in a leadership role, fundraise, or help recruit members. By doing so, you'll help a lot of people, make friends, and get something accomplished while getting a lot of visibility. Those that tend to be movers and shakers outside of their business tend to be movers and shakers inside their business. What a great way to stand out from the competition!
Be a Connector
Connectors know everyone! If you spend a good portion of your marketing time getting to know other business owners while helping them get what they want, they'll help you (not your competitors) get what you want. In fact, spend time with more connectors. Just don't look at everyone you meet at an event as a prospect. Focus on learning and helping and the prospecting will take care of itself.
Keep this in mind!
Even if you do all the right things, some of your competitors will feel uncomfortable to be around you. Especially if you're great at what you do, run a successful practice, have a strong personality, and have the ability to develop important relationships. There's nothing you can do about that.
What you can do is always strive to not feel threatened and use every opportunity to learn, develop your skills, serve your clients, and help others do the same.
Your prospects, clients, and referral sources will always notice!