Saturday, March 21, 2009

Know your enemy

Sun Tzu, a Chinese general whose words of wisdom still serve as guiding lights for military leaders, challenged us to "know our enemy:"

So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will fight without danger in battles.
If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose.
If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.

I was reminded of this when I came across a blog post from author/blogger Thom Singer. He has some interesting thoughts in, Warning: Your Competition is Calling Your Clients:

"But with the focus on new relationships it is imperative that your company not forget your existing customers. While your sales team is hitting the street chasing new business, you must remember that those prospects are you competitions current clients. While you pounce on their customers and referral sources, do not forget that they are doing the same thing. The difference is that their prospects are YOUR customers. All customers are going to be interested in listening to any vendor who can save them money in this environment, so be clear that they are inviting your competitors into their offices to hear their proposals right this very moment."

Know your enemy. Know their strengths and weaknesses. Understand their strategic plans and how it will affect you and your business. Know what products they have now and those they are pursuing in the future. And as Thom has pointed out above, know your competition's customers while recognizing that they are coming after yours.

When we don't do this, we run the risk of irrelevancy. We can find our products don't matter, our services are not valued, and our customers have moved somewhere else.

So who does this sort of analysis in your outfit? Army units have an intelligence officer whose mission in life is to think like the enemy. They are tasked with providing updates to the commander on emerging capabilities and vulnerabilities. They role play as the enemy in wargames and try to point out how they might take advantage of our perceived weaknesses. They are constantly studying enemy tactics and trends to help the commander understand current and future threats and how they might be defeated.

Maybe it is time to dedicate some time and resources to the study of your opposition. You better believe...he is studying you! Leader Business!

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