Do you truly know your strongest competitor? (Hint: It’s not the bear.)

By Rod Griffith
November 19, 2021

Do you truly know your strongest competitor? (Hint: It’s not the bear.)

The classic joke goes something like this:

Two friends, Cory and Taylor, are on their annual camping trip together in the remote wilderness when early one morning, Cory is suddenly awoken by the sounds of an animal outside the tent. Its sheer size and its grunting tells Cory instantly that it’s a grizzly bear—a very dangerous animal.

So, Cory quickly awakens Taylor in an alarmed whisper, “Get up, Taylor! There's a grizzly outside our tent!” While Taylor gets up, Cory is clearly panicking: his breathing accelerates as his eyes frantically scan the tent for a weapon to fend off the fierce beast.

Meanwhile, Taylor is putting on her sneakers. Now hyperventilating with sheer panic, Cory looks over and notices Taylor calmly lacing them.

Shocked at Taylor’s lack of alarm, Cory asks, “What are you doing? You can’t outrun a grizzly bear!”

Taylor looks up at Cory and says, “It’s not the grizzly bear I need to outrun.” 

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Know your true competition, and stop trying to outrun the bear.

While Cory wrongly assumed his competition was the grizzly bear, Taylor knew hers was Cory.

Unfortunately, many B2B marketers today don’t know their true competition. As a test, write down the name of your top three true competitors in order of formidability. To whom will you lose the most business this year?

Go ahead. I’ll wait…

Did you write down “the decision to do nothing” in the #1 slot? If you’re a B2B technology marketer, chances are you should have.

You are far more likely to lose business because a potential customer has decided not to implement your solution (or otherwise continue on their own). In fact, studies show that the decision to do nothing (keeping the status quo) is responsible for up to 60% of all sales deals lost.

Tips for facing your true competitor: The decision to do nothing

In the classic camping joke, Cory’s big mistake was placing all of his focus on the grizzly bear—while Taylor understood that the real competition was Cory. Too often, technology marketers focus their marketing efforts and attention on positioning themselves against the well-known market leaders. They may, after all, offer distinct advantages over the industry leaders. 

They may have newer, superior technology, a more well-suited niche solution (and focused expertise), and/or the ability to offer more personalized attention and service. But in overlooking their true competition—the decision to do nothing—they can end up reducing their sales potential by not addressing the customer’s option to do nothing. This is also known as status quo bias.

Here are some tips to help you address the status quo head on:

1. Create a compelling reason for action.

Help customers understand why moving forward with your solution (or implementation) is the right choice for their business and professional success. Understand their strategic business goals and, in turn, help them understand action is absolutely necessary to help them reach those goals in the timeframe they desire.

2. Don’t be afraid to leverage fear—it’s still a powerful sales motivator.

Educate customers on the risks of doing nothing. Help them see that continuing with the status quo is a dangerous gamble that will not help them overcome challenges or address the goals they most need to meet. Paint a picture of what the potential result of doing nothing could lead to. 

This may include lost business (or opportunity), weakening competitive stance, missed critical deadlines, deteriorating customer satisfaction (and reputation), overstressed workforce or resources (increasing the risk of mistakes), delayed ability to reach key goals, and many other possible consequences. Be sure to focus the fear on specific issues and challenges (versus setting a broad tone of fear), and make it immediately clear how your solution alleviates those fears. 

3. Determine and highlight the weaknesses in the decision to do nothing.

With any major competitor, you need to know their weaknesses, place a spotlight on them, and contrast those weaknesses with your offering. Take the same effort when focusing on the decision to do nothing. 

Identify the weaknesses in the argument for doing nothing—if you’re selling services, this may include the argument for doing it themselves—then contrast those weaknesses against your offering. Illustrate how their business and professional life will be improved by the purchase/implementation of your product. Emphasize the goals they will be able to achieve more successfully—and sooner.

4. Support your case.

As with any sales effort, you must be readily able to support your case against the decision to do nothing (and its risks) with industry statistics, anecdotes, customer proof points and testimonials, and other supporting evidence. Case studies that show the downside and risks of doing nothing are particularly useful. Where possible, leverage upcoming regulatory changes or other industry factors that are likely to accentuate the risks and pains involved with doing nothing.

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Don’t lose sight of your true competition.

The bottom line is don’t lose sight of your true competition in your sales messaging and marketing efforts. It’s not always the big, industry-leading vendors that make up your most formidable competition. The decision to do nothing is very compelling for most people: It requires the least amount of work and no immediate change (at least not in the short term). 

For people who fear the unknown of change, there is an emotional preference for the current state of affairs. To break this emotional barrier, marketers must find and highlight the risks involved with doing nothing—and help customers clearly see that action (toward your solution) is the stronger, more compelling, safer, and smarter decision.

If you lose sight of your true competition, you may end up having a bear of a time trying to build your market share.