Winning the Sale in a Field of Rivals

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As manufacturing industry competitors merge to form larger, more powerful companies, rivalry grows fiercer among the remaining players. Your challenge has become not just making and selling great products and services to meet your customers’ needs, but convincing them that in a field of strong competitors, you’re the best. What’s the best way to make that case?

1. Learn from their successes. Your competitors are doing something right. Whether their messaging is more resonate or products suit your customers’ needs in a slightly better way, your ability to learn what works for them and incorporate those successes into your own business will be key to winning the day—and the sale.
Apple vs. Microsoft is, perhaps, one of the greatest business rivalries in history, and though apple now dominates in number and enthusiasm of customers, Microsoft was once king. The rivalry actually began as a partnership, with Apple building the hardware and Microsoft supplying the software to run the operating system. Steve Jobs knew his customers needed this software and that the GUI (graphical user interface) was key to the success of any OS product. And he knew he and his team could do it better.

2. Carve out unique areas of strength. Once you understand your competitors’ strengths, you must understand yours. There are things you can do that others cannot—whether it’s because of the unique skills of your employees, the vision of your leadership, or the owned and managed resources available to you. If you build your product differentiation around these unrepeatable strengths, you’ll serve your customers in a way no one else can.
Steve Jobs believed the Microsoft team lacked artistic vision, saying bluntly in 1996, “The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste. And I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way.” Jobs wanted to replicate Microsoft’s GUI, but to differentiate it by bringing classic Apple style to it.

3. Compete on differentiation. In 1997, Apple famously told the world to “Think different,” effectively beginning its growth into the greatest computing device company in the world. Apple had been thinking different for a long time, but key to success was educating its customers about that difference.
The world has changed a lot in the 20+ years since that advertising campaign, and in the manufacturing industry, the challenge of broadcasting your differentiation message is even greater. Customers expect you to understand the unique challenges of their businesses—and you do. You must get their attention. Without the right messages directed at the right customers, the work you’ve done to be better, smarter, and more capable than your rivals won’t be enough.

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