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Doing an In Depth Competitive Analysis

3 Sep, 2013 By: David Ramos

Have you ever asked yourself why you lost a sales opportunity?  Have you ever had a sleepless night as to why the “sure thing” you had been counting on closing and had in your forecast for the prior three months was lost to a competitor?  Of course you have; we all have.

We each are aware of the incredible pressure we face to increase revenue, improve employee productivity and reduce costs in today’s business environment.  As an industry, we know the importance of benchmarking and continuous improvement in order to drive the overall health of our companies.  All of which are of the utmost importance to our long term success. 

However, do we take the time to stop and take a look at the outside and thoroughly assess our competition and their capabilities? Conducting a competitive analysis is typically something we analyze when we are doing a business plan.  With this analysis you can get a baseline for what makes your company unique and that gives insight into the characteristics that you can capitalize upon in your local market. You need to understand how your competitors compete for market share; your customers’ dollars and your prospects’ potential spend. We all need to know what our competition is doing and how they are doing it if we want to grow. 

So, where do we start and how do we gather the detailed information that will allow us to do an in depth competitive analysis?

  • Conduct win/loss reviews. I’m sure your sales management team does this as an internal exercise every month; where they ask each sales representative’s opinion as to why they believe they lost the opportunity, or why they won a deal.  This is a great exercise to provide coaching and feedback for your sales representatives and can be used to feed data to your competitive analysis via your CRM. But have you taken it to the next level and reached out to the lost opportunities, and asked your reps what their motivations were behind their decision?
  • Interview your sales reps’ on customers/lost opportunities. You know that your best customers are your competitors’ best prospects, right?  Flip the tables and get a mock appointment to do nothing more than understand what their customers like or dislike about each competitor. That’s right, an appointment that isn’t a sales pitch about how many pages per minute your widget can print/copy. Make your only goal of these internal meetings on gaining insight into how and why these businesses, your prospects, decide one competitor or another.
  • Collect competitive proposals.  This is a great way to research how your competition is positioned in your local market.  This will also allow you to identify who all of your competitors are in your respective market.
  • Additionally you can add to this process by thoroughly researching your competitors’ websites.  Studying them carefully can allow you to understand the services they claim to offer vs. the street level information gathered by collecting the competitive proposals.  Then again, ask yourself if this says something about them or if it says more about how your sales people are positioning your company.

Once you have taken a yearly quarter to implement a disciplined approach of the action items listed above and have continuously (daily, weekly, monthly) archived this information in your company’s CRM, you will have, through this process, gathered enough hard data to answer the following questions:

  • Who are my competitors in today’s world of expanding service offerings?
  • What are my competitors’ product line-up and pricing strategies?
  • What are my competitors’ strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are my competitors’ current strategies and how are they using them to win business?
  • What threats do they pose to my sales team’s success?
  • What opportunities are open for my company to capitalize on? 

If you have the urge to take this to the next level, there are services that can give you in-depth insight into the industry and market outlook.  What is the market potential, and is it growing or shrinking? And not only the high level macro view, but the true local micro view to give you actionable intelligence as to what the market is like for your products/services, and how to accelerate the process by conducting customer and prospect segmentation so your sales people are targeting the right opportunities with the best potential.

Taking the time and having the discipline to conduct a competitive analysis can be a challenge, but it’s a very insightful process.  If you are moving beyond traditional legacy products/services and considering Managed IT Services or Managed Print Services, then you will realize through this process that your competitive landscape has changed.  You’ll also learn more about your own company and start a game plan for how you need to change (I know, we all hate it but it’s inevitable) and then alter how you position your company for the future, i.e. alter service offerings, adjust product lineups, and attack your local market in order to gain market share and increase revenues.

David Ramos is Director, Channel Strategies Service (Office Group) for InfoTrends, a leading worldwide market research and strategic consulting firm for the imaging, document solutions, production print, and digital media industries. At  www.infotrends.com & David.Ramos@infotrends.com

About the Author: David Ramos

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