How to Stand Out In Competitive Times as an Entrepreneur

Competition in today’s business has never been this fierce.

Therefore, if you fail to consciously and consistently differentiate yourself as an entrepreneur, you are already toast!

Commonality is a dead game.

Let me quickly share with you 5 simple ideas on how to differentiate yourself as an entrepreneur in competitive times:


1. Change The Questions You & Team Are Asking:

The questions you ask as an entrepreneur goes a long way to influence your overall strategy and tactics you deploy for competing and producing results in business.

Questions make a whole lot of difference between those who win and those who don’t.

Your ability to stand out and capture a good size of customers’ customs depends heavily on the quality of questions you ask about marketing, about strategy, about sales, about HR, about innovation, about customers’ changing appetites, about everything.

An entrepreneur that asks himself: “How do I sell to 100 customers?” and an entrepreneur that asks: “How do I build a business system that doesn’t only attracts 100 customers but that also retains them and turns them into evangelists of our brand?” are both running on different mental architectures, and both certainly, can’t compete the same way.

Let me buttress this with a simple story.

Many years ago, Coca Cola was having a terrible time competing with Pepsi and their market share was dropping like a rolling stone on a hill!

They noticed a downward slope in the consumption graph of their customers and it really bothered the CEO: a man by the name, Roberto Goizueta.

His team assumed that customers weren’t buying Coke because they were buying Pepsi, so they thought that the market was already saturated for them to compete.

But then one day, the CEO called a strategy meeting and in that meeting, he decided to ask his team a different QUESTION that redirected the ship of their minds.

He asked:

What is the current ratio of coke consumption by customers to water consumption?” (Author paraphrased)

That simple change of question completely transformed the way Coca Cola viewed their market dynamics, racially adjusted their business strategy, and opened up new vistas of opportunities for the company to compete and grow beyond what they thought.

Now, let’s bring this ball back to you.

Are there areas in your business where you have been asking limiting questions that may have caused you to only see your business in a certain way or placed you in the box of survival or just Naira and kobo?

Then change the questions and ask new ones.

For example, instead of asking yourself, “How do I sell more products in Nigeria?” you can change the question and ask yourself, “How do I become the go-to, first-choice brand for my customers in Nigeria?”

What that does for you is that it opens you up to start thinking beyond and way differently than your competitors.

2. Master Your Customer’s Buying Criteria

Every customer you deal with or will deal with in business has reasons why they buy or want to buy from you or your competitors.

In marketing, it is called buying criteria, and these buying criteria are known to vary with evolving time and conditions.

Most times what makes you want to sell to a customer is not what makes a customer want to buy from you.

Don’t be emotional about this. This is just the basic reality; so deal with it.

If you want to attract new customers or get your existing customers to fall and stay in love with you and not move their customs to your competitors, you need to set up your business in such a way that you can easily and quickly learn what customers’ buying criteria are and move to serve them well.

Few days ago, I had a one-on-one business strategy session with one of my clients.

She recently set up a cleaning solution company and I had to work with her to develop a marketing strategy and the issue of buying criteria came up.

For example, assuming she is trying to pitch her business to a prospect and the prospect says:

Hmm…I don’t think I need a cleaning service right now. The last person I worked with took my money and he never came through on his promise of delivering a quality job.

Then at that moment, she immediately notes it that two of this prospect’s buying criteria is: TRUST and QUALITY.

This will help her craft her sales communication in such a way that it not only speak directly to the prospect’s buying criteria, but it also differentiates her from other competitors.

But if she doesn’t understand this concept, she may end up spending so much time talking to the prospects about how ‘cheap’ her services are or the size of bonuses they give. But that’s not what the customer’s buying criteria are, at least going by just the scenario depicted above.

To stand out in today’s competitive times, you must understand your market’s buying criteria, and how to do that is very simple:

Probe + Listen + Note + Learn + Probe.

3. Maintain a Smoothness in Business Process

Let’s assume you were invited to come make a sales presentation or a demo to a list of prospects that may end up doing business with you.

But then, you were not the only one invited; your competitors were invited also.

So you took samples of your products with you to the presentation venue and also prepared a 50-slide power-point presentation to boot. Now, it was time for your presentation and you were taking time to explain to your prospects the value proposition of your product because the process involved sounded or appeared ambiguous or complex.

While your competitor, on the other hand, showed up and click, click, he was done with his presentation and left the prospects with sound clarity about what his value proposition was.

What do you think would happen?

Yeah, you guessed right.

Your competitor will take the cake.

Today’s customers want speed and smoothness – not stress.

There is nothing that irritates them more than a business whose process is roughed with bureaucracies, procedures, upheavals, or holdups.

So take a look at your business and ask yourself a simple question:

What aspect of my business process should I smoothen to create a better user experience for my customers or prospects?

When you find it (them), address it (them)… as soon as possible!

4. Deploy the Power of Visual Appeal

While it is true that you run a business, always remember that you are still dealing with HUMANS.

And as humans, your customers or prospects still have their basic human proclivities.
One of such proclivities is that customers are mostly influenced by visuals – what they see. As a matter of fact, it is reported that about 70% of humans’ decisions to buy or not to buy are optically motivated.

That’s why most businesses that understand this phenomenon are already moving towards using the technique of “demonstration” to sell to new and existing customers.

They don’t just tell, they show.

What that tells you is that your customers want to see things that are fine, organized, and visually appealing.

So begin to offer them that visual appeal before your competitors do.

5. Be Speedy with Innovative Execution

Don’t confuse this last item with No. 3 idea on Smoothness.

When I say Speed of Innovative Execution, I am actually talking about your market agility or, simply put, your speed of innovating and responding to customers’ ever-changing needs and expectations.

How fast and consistent can you move your customers from their need point to their satisfaction point and then up to their overall memorable experience point?

See, the time frame between old and new in today’s marketplace is shrinking by nanoseconds.

Therefore, your business must be agile and swift in responding to customers’ ever-changing appetites.

To do that you must have strong innovation culture as well as good market intelligence built around strong assemblage of data. You must be ready to constantly listen to your market more than your competitors are willing to do and then act wisely and swiftly on what your market tells you.

Okay guys. That’s it.

I hope these 5 simple ideas serve you well as you strive in competitive times.