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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

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3 Ways To Identify Collaborators And Competitors

It might seem so obvious that it's not worth reading any further ...


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 10/08/2022 @ 8:00AM

Your competitors are all those other people in the same profession or line of work. You can spot them a mile away ...

Is this a collaborator or a competitor? That depends on both yours and their attitude!

Is this a collaborator or a competitor? That depends on both yours and their attitude!

photo by hunters race on unsplash

If you take that working definition - and many people do - then you're missing the opportunity to build relationships with potential and powerful collaborators. On the other hand, you may be ignoring people who are a severe threat to your business.

"Refine your definition somewhat, and you may find you categorise people differently!"

Your competitors are those businesses that offer a solution for the same problem/aspiration to the same target market as you. Now, when you look at other businesses in your network, check if each person really is a threat to you or a possible opportunity to collaborate.

What is their solution? What do they actually do? Investigate a bit deeper than just their job title. A nice example is someone calling themselves an 'HR consultant'. This can mean they offer generalised advice when you have a problem with a member of staff, or act as your HR director. Alternatively, they could undertake change management projects such as restructuring and negotiating redundancies.

If you're an HR Consultant, which of these services is your speciality? Does that differ from others? Could you cross-refer? After all, nothing will demonstrate your integrity more than telling a client. "I'm not sure I'm the best person for that ... I'd recommend you talk to XXX"

What is their speciality? Does it match or overlap with yours? Yes? Well before you strike them off your Christmas card list read on!

What problem/aspiration do they fix? This can seem almost the same answer, but it can bring new people into the frame. While you may not compete on what you offer, you may compete on being the priority for that business owner.

Take a common aspiration for most businesses: "I want to grow my business". Many business consultants and support companies will assert they do this in vastly different ways, and if they know their stuff will make an impact on growth.

The business owner, however, has to prioritise to match the time, money, and mental energy they have for implementing that change. So, you suddenly find yourself in competition with all those other 'growth experts'.

Let's list a few to see the dilemma facing the busy business owner wanting to grow. I've no doubt you could add more to the list:

  • Introductions to new prospects

  • More hits on my website

  • Convert more hits from my website

  • Better ROI from advertising

  • How to use social to reach my clients

  • Close more sales

  • Re-activate dormant clients

  • Sell more to existing clients

  • Outsource telemarketing

  • Exhibition displays

  • Recruit sales staff

  • Recruit managers

  • Improve customer service

  • Retain skilled staff

  • Improve productivity

  • Move to larger premises

  • Finance new premises

  • Finance other assets

  • Manage cash flow

  • Training and development

Whilst you can keep them competing for your client's limited money, time and energy you could see these people as your prime referral partners.

Once you've built the necessary trusting relationship, you could refer each other into this individual client. For example, you could go in to improve their website and then refer me in to help them access the right clients and I introduce the sales coach, who introduces the CRM specialist to manage the pipeline.

As the business grows, you add in the financing specialist and commercial estate agent. Equally, you may call in specialists to help you fulfil the contract. The classic example is the web designer bringing in the graphic designer, photographer and copywriter. It could equally apply to other specialities.

"What a powerful network that would be! But what if they are still competing for the same pot of money?"

Who are your ideal clients? Whom are you trying to attract as clients? Someone else may offer a similar or competing service, but to a totally different type of client.

Let's go back to the example of the HR consultant again. Imagine you're offering is the same basic advisory service and the need is the same - help with handbooks, contracts and individual problems - but if they are looking to meet start-up high technology businesses, and you're looking for local retail outlets, you're not fishing in the same pond! In fact, like the first example, you can gain an excellent reputation for integrity by recommending your fellow HR specialist.

So, in summary when you get that "punch in the stomach" moment as you realise there are three other people in the room apparently offering the same service, take off your competitive glasses. Now, replace them with bifocals that enable you to see them as potential collaborators as well.

As an extra tip, whether they are potential collaborators or competitors will also depend on their attitude. There are those in this world who are interested and enjoy helping others succeed as well as themselves, and there are others who enjoy the act of winning. Choose the collaborators as your partners; you'll know them when you meet them.

They are the ones who ask you questions about how they can help you.

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more about identifying your collaborators and competitors, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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