Compete Less, Win More Business: Be Different!

by Bart Zych

CompetitionThe concept of an elevator pitch is well understood by most salespeople and entrepreneurs, even by those without a business background. The importance of differentiation is a different story. I hear so many bland, even boring elevator pitches that it makes me wonder how some people attract any business at all.

The importance of being different than your competitors is illustrated well using the business concepts of zero-sum game and positive-sum game.

Zero-Sum Game

In a zero-sum game, someone wins, and someone loses. Let’s take two graphic designers as an example. Both have similar skills and experience, and both market and promote their services in a similar way. As a result, both designers will have the same target market, meaning that they will be competing head to head, sometimes for the same piece of business. The net result is that one graphic designer will win the business (+1), and the other will lose (-1), ending in zero-sum game.

Positive-Sum Game

Positive-sum game involves two winners. By creating the perception of being different from each other, our graphic designers have segmented their target market. Let’s say that one of the designers has done good work for a couple of hospitals and maybe a health care clinic. He can then use this experience to position himself as an expert graphic designer in the health care industry. Let’s also say that the second designer has created some logos for a couple of lawyers. She can now position herself as a designer specializing in the legal industry.

Positioning and Differentiation

Even though both graphic designers have the skills and capabilities to do any work in any industry, by positioning themselves as experts in different sub-segments of a larger, common target market, they have differentiated themselves. Now one graphic designer pursues and wins (+1) health care industry business, while the other approaches and wins (+1) business in the legal industry. The result? Significantly reduced competition and more business for both graphic designers, resulting in a positive-sum game, which you should be playing too, if you aren’t already.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

todays date January 24, 2012 at

If an organization doesn’t have the resources to do sales training with a strategic plan, it is better off spending its money elsewhere!


Bart Zych January 27, 2012 at

For B2B organizations, revenues depend on sales, and if the sales skills are not there, revenue will suffer. The situation may be different for retailers and online stores. Ultimately the organization needs to determine what it’s priorities are and invest in that area.


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