We will all face competitors during our lifetime. If you pursue your most ambitious plans and dreams, you’ll encounter more than most, and they must never be underestimated. There’s an arrogant complacency in thinking your customer or prospective employer will simply believe you’re the best because you’ve said so. Only one company or individual can rightfully claim to be #1. Rising to the top among people with whom you are competing – whether for a customer’s business or a dream job – takes hard work, cunning and determination. Hope is not a strategy. As Vince Lombardi said, the man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.
I found out early on that you can’t do today’s job with yesterday’s methods or mediocre service and hope to be in business tomorrow. First, determine exactly who and what you’re up against, and then develop outside-the-box methods to infiltrate your enemy’s camp. In my fourth book, Rule #1 Don’t Be #2, I describe a covert tool I developed early on my road to success which I call “mystery shopping”. This strategic recon work involves representing yourself as a competitor’s potential customer to explore and identify what they’re doing differently and possibly more effectively. Every competitor knew something I didn’t, and through diligent research, I was able to visualize their playbook. It’s one of the ways I was able to reach the top of my game in finance and create a “sales call to conversion” rate of 78.5 percent, which is a staggering 75% higher than the average of 3%.
Don’t overlook the many ways to research competitors online. Exploring the social media platforms of both individuals and businesses is a great way to assess their messaging, values and target markets. You’ll be surprised by how much you’ll learn, and you’ll be a far more impressive candidate, presenter or business owner if you can demonstrate topic or market intelligence beyond the norm.
For example, this recon will be essential when you engage in the interviewing process. Prospective employers will dismiss you instantly if you can’t answer questions regarding the company you claim to want to join. Enthusiasm and a slick resume will only take you so far. Demonstrate expertise with regard to their mission and product or service line, as well as more obscure facts not every candidate will have been able to excavate. Don’t leave anything to chance. Choice, not circumstance, determines your success.
Some people have told me they’re not comfortable with researching competition. That sounds like either laziness or an excuse to me, and both must be avoided at all cost if you’re going to distinguish yourself among the rest. Excuses are nothing more than self- sabotage. Think of getting the handle on your competition as an investment in yourself you can’t afford not to make. If you’re not willing to step out of your comfort zone, you’re probably not really committed to winning that contract or big promotion you’re dreaming of. Well, you can sleep with your dreams or wake up and chase them.
Getting out in front of your competition is only one of the many lessons I share in Rule #1 Don’t Be #2. These are the lessons that have fueled my success. I’ve used them to persevere, and I use them still today. Like anyone who has achieved substantial success despite being tested by failure and adversity, I’ve found that the difference between those who will merely dream of success and those who will successfully reach their dream lies in attitude and action.
Here’s the bottom line: success or failure is only determined by where you decide to stop, and stopping should never be an option even when you do succeed. Whenever I encounter people who tirelessly go the extra mile in their quest to reach their dream, I’m reminded that amateurs practice until they get it right, but professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong. My goal is always to be better than I was yesterday. As I always say, success is never owned. It’s rented, and the rent is due every day.
Daniel Milstein is the CEO and founder of the Gold Star Family of Companies, operating in over 40 offices worldwide, specializing in financial services, sports management, publishing, and film production. Under Dan’s visionary leadership, Gold Star has been named among Inc. magazine’s 500 Fastest Growing Companies in America. He is a best-selling author and shares his other strategies for success in his new book Rule #1 Don’t Be #2: You Get What You Work For, Not What You Wish For. Learn more at DanMilstein.com.