Friday, February 3, 2012

a new approach to competition

At our most Darwinian, we are competitive. It's natural, we can't escape it, and it's always there deep down. We are often at our ugliest when we are competitive. We aren't great neighbors, we're not great advocates, and we're certainly not a trustworthy resource.
There are sales managers that approach this business with a Cobra Kai mentality. they want nothing less than domination. They want to write the wine list, print the wine list and then walk into the restaurant like they own the wine list. Then, they become territorial when the buyer even considers buying from another distributor. I've even seen them get angry when the buyer (the customer for god's sake!) wants to replace the item that is important to the distributor with a different item from the same distributor, but of less importance. That's getting off track though, apologies.
The point is, distributors, top to bottom, often forget who their customer is, and as a result, turn themselves into untrustworthy resources for their customers. The approach that blocking your competitors will generate greater sales is a flawed concept. While you may dominate market share in certain accounts, you will fail in areas where you could succeed if you were credible and trustworthy.
Good wine programs buy from a number of sources. while they may prefer to deal with a small group, it will always be in the buyer's best interest to buy from multiple outlets. Assuming, as a rep, that you are getting a piece of the pie, don't you want to be the one that the buyer leans on for candid and trustworthy experience and advice? If you can demonstrate that the customer's best interests are your best interests, you can build a reciprocal relationship. Going against nature, you may need to compliment, or even show professionalism to your competition. You may need to work with them to help find the best combination of selections to make your client the most money. your disparaging remarks, maneuvering and jealousy won't help you sell more wine.
It really comes down to some sage philosophy that's been floating around for some time "You only need to worry about you, the rest will take care of itself". So true, your competitors are out of your control, but if you are better than them, smarter than them, work harder than them, and are nicer than them, guess what you have mastered? The crane kick.

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