I’ve never been one to obsess about my competition. When they do enter my consciousness, it tends to be not for what they do, but how they do it.
Prospects, on the other hand, are a different breed. Nearly all will talk to you at length about their foes.
It’s a great topic on which to build rapport and gain insight and trust.
How do you ‘manage’ such a discussion in the field?
There are many well trodden frameworks you could deploy. Kidnap any passing first year business school learner and they’ll tell you to SWOT. Some may even bleat Porter’s Five Forces. But how can you frame your questions so that you don’t sound like you’ve swallowed a textbook?
Well, in downtime I just read an article by a leading English tech author. He sets out where he thinks the smartphone market is at right now. Beyond his obvious subject expertise, what I love about it is how simply he sums up each player. In Battle of the Smartphones, these are the six questions he asks of each;
- Best brainwave
- Worst decision
- Biggest strength
- Biggest weakness
- What does the future hold?
- Rising or falling?
Of course, the switched on will realise these lean heavily on SWOT analysis anyway. But they are presented in a much better conversational way.
I particularly like the idea to deduce the trajectory.
And there’s plenty of scope for personal tailoring. you could for instance ask about their best product, main gap, showpiece client or driving force.
I wouldn’t mind betting that the next time I’m talking competition with a prospect, if I used these questions then trust and insight would truly flow.