The Competition Doesn’t Matter – Part 2

Last week, I offered a provocative approach to sidestepping the competition by educating prospects about your value.

Simply put, it’s called being real.

The point I made was that our experiences – work, personal, education, client projects, make us unique, and give us a specific distinctive competence.

In other words, our experience makes us uniquely good at something. It puts us into a category of our own – but to own that category, we have to be real.

Years ago, I attended an executive communications conference, sitting around a table with seven other people. Person after person got up, introduced himself or herself, and talked about their jobs professionally, seriously, and without any energy or spark. They lacked uniqueness. They lacked reality.

You need that spark, derived from who you are, from what’s real in your life, to stand out and connect with prospects. Prospects are human too. They want to connect with you.

But we’re often so afraid of leading with what’s fundamental to us. Often we want to put up a persona – a fake, shiny representation of who we are.

After all, prospecting is a bit like a succession of first dates. If prospects don’t like what we’re saying, rejection feels personal – aimed at who we are, not what we do.

It’s also so easy to generalize from one person’s disapproval and assume that your distinctive competence isn’t valuable.

But it’s essential to understand that, just as in dating, you won’t connect with everyone.

Going back to my post last week, you’ll remember that my prospect asked a painful question: “how do your rates compare with the competition?”

For ten minutes, we did a little dance, back and forth. I worked to establish my value, they asked a question about market pricing for copywriters. I talked about my distinctive competence, they asked about the lowest amount of money I ever took for a project.

Back and forth we went. Suddenly I realized that we weren’t going to work together.

My message was about core capabilities and values, and their only interest was price.

In other words, they wanted my services for $25/hour.

I could have beaten myself up over this, taken it personally, wondered if my distinctive competence was wrong, gone into a tailspin of self-doubt. But I didn’t.

I saw that they wanted filet mignon for $5. And I was able to smile at the absurdity of that, politely thank them for their time, and move along.

Not every prospect will accept our value, capabilities, or pricing. In fact, most of them won’t.

A basic truism of market share is that, in mature markets with multiple competitors, it’s nearly impossible to get more than 35% market share.

In other words, the best business out there doesn’t connect with 65% of customers. So you can’t expect to appeal to everyone. But more importantly, you don’t want to appeal to everyone.

One of our jobs is to find the prospects that accept our value, our competence, and our price list. And not to be derailed by the ones that don’t.

I know, especially as we build our businesses, it’s so easy to take clients that don’t align to our needs. This prospect dangled dozens of projects in front of my nose, hoping that I’d commit due to hints of future work.

But I stuck to my guns – which is a key part of being real.

I recall being on a date, many years ago, when I pretended to be something I wasn’t. After a night of vegetarian food, line dancing, and getting the drunken girl into a cab, I went home, feeling vaguely dirty … and used.

Let’s avoid feeling used by our clients. Find those who will commit to who we are and what we do.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: June 18, 2012

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