The race is on to set the mood for today's episode, which is about competition. I'm going to talk about competition because I've had a few suggestions that maybe I should talk a little bit about some business strategies. Maybe at some point, we'll talk about finances, P& L, balance sheet, estimating.
But in this episode, I want to talk a little bit about sales and we will talk more about sales in future episodes. But I think today what I want to do is talk about. competition, and how, how you speak about your competition. Do you speak about your competitors? When do you speak about your competitors?
Should you speak about your competitors? Because, uh, you know, in the landscape industry, there's oftentimes not a lot of sales training and the way that a lot of us handle. Our competition isn't always very strategic. It's oftentimes unprofessional. Yet, Um, we tend to, when I say we, my observation is that a lot of you get tied up thinking too much about your competitors, which also affects the way you price and market your company, your products, your services, et cetera.
So today I'm going to dig into how to speak about your competition, how to frame your competition, and how to position yourself and your competitors in this episode.
If you are an irrigation professional, old or new, who designs, installs, or maintains high-end residential, commercial, or municipal properties, and you want to use technology to improve your business, to get a leg up on your competition, even if you're an old school irrigator from the days of hydraulic systems, this show is for you.
Okay, here we go. So I think I'm going to use just my own personal experience, um, helping to build the baseline company, uh, specifically because, you know, way back in the day when, when I was first introduced to baseline, which was. 2004 or 2005, they, they didn't, they didn't have any salespeople. It was just the founders, a couple of engineering, manufacturing people, and a, you know, sort of receptionist, uh, accountant, a bookkeeper, if you will.
That was it. There were like five people, you know, and then, and then we, we grew the company. But, uh, at one point there, nobody knew who Baseline was. Nobody knew really amazing emerging technology. Nobody knew who the company was. So the various sales situations, that I was a part of, there was only competition because nobody knew, who I was.
And I'm going to try to make a couple of analogies as we go through this, but I want to start by saying there's a difference between being the existing leader in the space, the biggest. competitors versus being the incumbent small, let's call it startup company, whether that's a manufacturing, a distributor or retailer, a contractor, whenever you're starting out, you're kind of that smaller emerging player.
So depending on who you are, when you're listening to this, you know, keep this in mind because there might be some strategies that you want to deploy. If you are the small and emerging, and there might be some cautionary words if you are the biggest players. So when I say the biggest players, let's just say Rain Bird, Toro Hunter.
Transcribed Uh, for instance, in, in our industry, or if it, as it relates to contractors, you know, maintenance contractors, perhaps Brightview is a big player. And then, you know, Joe's, uh, Joe's landscape maintenance that's starting up is the, is the incumbent. So just keep that in mind as we go through this.
But I want to start by saying that in the most general sense, I tend to, and I guess me, my, my thought is to, when you talk about your competition, try to talk about them without naming them or naming their particular product or their particular company. If you have to talk about your competitors, you don't have to talk about them by name.
And there are a couple of reasons why this is beneficial. And instead of talking about them by name, I think it's better to look at kind of the entire landscape. Uh, and if you are a startup tech company bringing, let's say some new estimating software or design software to market, you might be, you might be addressing the entire United States or perhaps the entire world.
And if that's the case, what you want to do is, is look at that entire. market and then put your competitors, put the existing competitors into buckets and there's some real benefit to this. So put your, put your competitors into buckets. And again, if you're, if you're servicing the entire country, you want to look at the entire landscape of the United States.
If you're serving a local market, you want to create, uh, your, your buckets based on that local market. So, I'll point out that these buckets may not exist. You, get to create the buckets. And You want to create buckets that frame your product exactly where, or your service, your business, your company, you want to use buckets that frame your business exactly where you want to be positioned and by positioning, by, by creating these buckets exactly where you want to position your, you are also creating, uh, you're framing your competitors into those buckets.
This is not what your competitor thinks they are. This is where you get to say, you get to create these buckets and you get to educate your, your, your, your customer about the market, about the buckets, what the different, um, you know, the full landscape looks like without talking by the competitor by name or their feature by name.
You're just kind of giving the lay of the land. Companies that are like type A, and companies that are like type B. And so let me give you an example of what I would do. Um, at baseline, so instead of speaking about the competition, what I would do is I would create buckets that would speak to baseline's kind of core benefit while also kind of planting the seed so that if the customer were to speak with, let's say, Rainbird, Rainbird would not have the capability that I just positioned.
Even though I didn't say Rainbird, I would create a bucket and position Rainbird in that bucket or I would create a bucket and position Baseline into this amazing bucket so that if they were to speak with Rainbird, Rainbird wouldn't have that particular feature. So something like this You know back, let's say around 2010 I would say something like one of Baseline's core benefits is that We are a technology company, and because of this, we focus a hundred percent on modern web architecture, modern web performance, right?
And, and building a technology platform that plays nicely with modern web performance. Your IT department and an example of this would be our web-based interface. You can access baseline software Using any web browser. There's no software to purchase no software to load on your machine or update and We consider this to be the new standard Okay?
So there's the bucket. The new standard that I created, that I framed, which is modern web platform, web based interface. And the reason that I would say this is because at the time, 2010, Baseline was the only company So instead of saying something like, Yeah, we have a web based interface. Instead, I would position it as a technology company with modern web architecture.
We consider this to be the new standard in the industry. Okay? Now, by saying that, you know, plant the seed that That web based platform is the future web based platform is the new standard so that if the if that client happened to go talk to a competitor and have a discussion about web based platforms, the competitor would not be able to wouldn't wouldn't have that doesn't have that capability, which, you know, puts them in that in that bucket.
We'll talk about how what we what we also kind of call that. But how I like to think of that is that you create the narrative. You get to, you know, tell the story, paint the picture, create the narrative of what the market looks like, what the region looks like, what the, you know, how irrigation is performed in your city, your market, you get to create that narrative.
So your customer doesn't create their own story or their own narrative. So I would say something like, you know, we, this was, you know, me and my baseline days, we are different than traditional. Irrigation manufacturers that major in plastic manufacturing for blank reason. We are different than legacy manufacturers that major in blank.
Okay. Because. You know, who wants to be considered if you're buying a piece of technology, do you want to be, you want to, do you want to be framed as a legacy company or a traditional company? So those are kind of two buckets that I would create. Never mentioned the competitor by name, but I, but I would just create those buckets.
And say we are different than legacy companies. We are different than traditional companies. Sometimes I would mention by name, but you can do that if you are the smaller company. We'll talk about that in a second. You can name the competitor sometimes if you are the smaller company, because if Rainbird is, you're not trying, they already know.
They're probably going to have a conversation if, if you're a commercial maintenance company, likely in a, in a metro area, likely your customer may have a discussion, let's say with Brightview. And again, I'm, I'm just using names that might be, that you might be able to relate to. It's likely that they're going to have a conversation with Brightview.
So you could say something like, we are different than traditional companies like Brightview. Because blank, now you've framed Brightview as a traditional company, or you could say something like, we are different than legacy companies like Brightview because blank. Again, I may seem like I'm picking on Brightview.
I'm not. I'm just naming them because there are only a few sort of large national companies that might be in every local area. So if you are working at Brightview, please don't take this personally. I'm just just using it figuratively. But it doesn't also, it doesn't always work the other way around, okay?
So, if you are Brightview, if you are Rainbird, if you are SiteOne, Ewing, et cetera, and you are the, let's say the... current market leader. And again, I'm not saying Rainbird's the market leader, but technically, yeah, they kind of are, right. They're one of the market leaders. If you are the market leader, I think it is rarely an advantage to specifically naming competitors.
So there was nothing better for me in the early days and for Baseline in the early days, nothing better than if one of the larger leaders like Rainbird, Toro, Hunter, even Rainmaster, Kalsense, you know, and Tukor for that matter. There was nothing better than if they would name Baseline. And the reason is because nobody knew who Baseline was.
So, if a larger competitor were to bring up Baseline in the conversation, all of a sudden, it's like they, they immediately legitimize Baseline. Not legitimizing the features and the capability, but by naming the company, they legitimize the fact that Baseline's large enough to be a part of the conversation.
Okay? So, if you're the larger company, if you're the market leader, it's rarely to your advantage to name the smaller incumbent. And this, and I'm not going to name names, but there are existing examples of this, even in the irrigation industry that I see regularly from larger technology companies that are the market leaders naming smaller incumbents.
And it is, it does nothing but legitimize them, bring them into the conversation. And if your customer did not know who they were. Now they know who they are and if you name them, they probably should go do their due diligence and talk to them because if they're legitimate enough for the market leader to be aware and add to the conversation, then your customer probably needs to go have a conversation and so you just did yourself a disservice by mentioning them and bringing them into the conversation.
So that's kind of like I would say the untold Untold rule is that if you are the bigger company, don't bring in, don't bring in your smaller, the, the small guys. Okay. Um, let's see, what should we, where should we go next with this? I think that this also relates to something that we see called a kill sheet and a kill sheet.
You, you've probably seen, um, let's just say sprinkler manufacturer, a, you know, creates a kill sheet for their new rotor. And in this kill sheet, you see a list of features from their rotor. And then you see, you know, competitor one, competitor two, competitor three, and you see this like a, you know, comparison.
Uh, feature, feature comparison, it's known as a kill sheet and there's a couple of reasons why I don't particularly like kill sheets. Number one, because it brings competitors into the conversation that may not have been in the conversation already and legitimizes them. But it also helps bring up this phrase that I, that I love to use, and that is in the sales process.
Of course, don't answer questions that haven't been asked. A lot of times we want to assume our customer, our prospect is going to ask us something. And so you see a lot of salespeople that just love to talk and they start, they start answering questions that the customer hasn't even asked. And oftentimes it's leading them down a path that they weren't going to go down before.
And I think this is a great, you know, the kill sheet is a great example of that. You're answering, you're answering questions that the customer hasn't even asked. So it really serves, it really serves little purpose unless the customer specifically came in. You know, searching for, you know, this exact difference.
So you might be able to now, as I think about this, you might be able to have like a landing page, right? If somebody goes to Google and they search, you know, Rainbird 5, 000. Versus Hunter PGP, right? You may not want to, I would not recommend you ever have that conversation with a prospect unless they ask.
And if they ask, you don't necessarily have to show. But if they search that on Google, okay, maybe you want to have a landing page that talks about that, those differences, but that would be kind of the only, the only time I would recommend having that, that kill sheet or, you know, in your local area, if you think people are searching.
You know, Contractor A versus Contractor B. So, in other words, let's say you're a salesperson for some fictitious company called Complete Irrigation. I wouldn't recommend you say something like, you may have heard of Advanced Irrigation because they are new, they're advertising a lot in this local area, but they don't do Blank.
Don't say that. If you are the larger company, i. e. complete irrigation, don't say something like, you may have heard of advanced irrigation because they are the, they are new and they're advertising a lot. Don't mention the competition, especially when they're smaller. All right. So don't mention the competition if they're smaller.
Don't answer questions that, that haven't been asked. And I would say if you are asked about the competition, it doesn't mean you have to provide an answer. Okay. This is where strategy comes in. Just because someone asks you a question doesn't mean you have to provide an answer to that question. Number one, you could reply with another question.
Number two, you get to respond any way that you, any way that you want to. So what I would do if, if someone asks you about. Uh, your competitor, go back to your positioning buckets, you know, instead of answering the question exactly, uh, find a bucket to put them in, you know, that, that way it can help you avoid the question.
So if they, if somebody were to ask me something, you know, specific about Rainbird, I would, you know, I might say something like, well, you know, the way that legacy companies handle that feature is blank. Okay. You get to, you get to reposition them, which also positions you. Okay. So I may have gotten a little off track.
I hope, I hope not. But I think that in summary here, you know, competition is, how do I say this? Competition is kind of made up. It's always there. It's never going to go away. How you relate to the competitor is up to you. Okay, so that's why there are no competitors. The only competitor is you. You are your own biggest competitor.
I guess those might be some of my final words. You are your own biggest competitor. And I think that in summary, again, if you're the larger company, it will not help for you to name your smaller competitors, even if they happen to be, you know, The cute, the cute girl, AKA the pretty girl at the dance. It doesn't mean you have to talk about them.
Don't talk about the new smaller competitors. And remember that you get to control the narrative. It's your narrative. You get to position. yourself, your company, your, your product, your service. And you also get to position your competitors by educating your customer about the entire landscape and placing competitors into certain buckets without mentioning them by name.
So never miss an opportunity to position your competitors, paint the picture of the market. Position your competitors accordingly. And as a result, I think your competitors will only be left to. React and that's what you want to do. You want to seem like you are, you know, the entire market, you've created these buckets, you've framed up the competition into certain buckets and, and then your competitor will only be left to react.
So I think, uh, yeah, this, this could be the one of the first. First episodes I've done with sales strategies, and I think the sale is easy if the positioning is done Properly so yeah take that for what it's worth think of think of creating buckets positioning framing And then the sale just becomes easy after that and and some of this is unlimited again You just use your creative use creativity to create buckets that frame up your company Even if you are the, um, your company is the oldest in your market area, even if your company is not using technology, even if your company, you know, is not, if your company is not keeping up with the times, you still get to create new buckets to position your competitors and frame yourself in the way that you want to be framed in a way that you know your, what your customers are looking for.
Thank you as always for listening. Really appreciate you guys. Really appreciate those who, uh, reach out to me. Thank you, Michelle from Canada for connecting with me this week. Great to talk to you and, uh, if you haven't already follow, subscribe, share this podcast with a, with a colleague or a friend. And, uh, it kind of feels good to have 143 episodes, so if you've only listened to a couple, you know, dig back into the archives, find something else to listen to, and I would always love to have a suggestion if you have something that you'd like me to talk about or do some research on or bring on a guest, reach out any time.
So thanks so much guys, we'll catch you next week on another episode. Bye bye.