I had gone to see my friend who was a manager at a milk producing company and was surprised to see his table lined up with three crown milk, peak milk and about three other leading brands of milk. Not only was the competitor’s products on his table, he also used their products and asked some of his friends to use them.
I was intrigued by this and wanted to know why he was not using his company;s products but was courageous enough to display his competitors’ products on his desk and his answer is something all sales and product managers must practice.
He said he knew all there was to know about his product both the packaging and the taste. He was aware of all the changes in his product but that will not keep him at the top. What will keep him at the top is being aware of the changes his key competitors are making.
He uses their product to notice when they make a radical change, he displays, their products on his desks to see what he is up against every day. He uses the ones on his desk every week and gets another set just to see weekly if they have come up with something new.
He asks his friends to use the products of his competitors and then asks for feed back. He then compares the feed back to his products. He has come to realize that his competitors actions and inaction are critical to his own success.
This strategy has kept him ahead of the game. I had once asked a manager what was the unique drawback of his competitor’s products and what he mentioned had already been removed from the competitor’s product without him noticing. He was still attacking his competitor based on a weakness that no longer exist.
Smart sales managers that learn to know more about their competitors products than their have always excelled. Your team can master your product and keep you updated but they will never master your competitor’s products. It is your duty to cover that angle.
Never leave anything to change in the marketing game. I heard the story of a Nigerian brewery manager who ordered for Legend extra stout for all his friends and when he left, the friends switched the Legend to Guinness. He was angry with them when he came beck and refused to pay. Wiser managers would have paid for their Guinness and asked for their opinion while they drank it on how it was better than legend. That way he would have gained more insight on changes to make to his product.