Most people are going to disagree with me on this next statement and you will think that I am nuts. But, it has worked for me since the mid-1970s and I will not change now, especially if something has been proven to succeed for nearly 50 years.
Let me start by saying, I forgot his name (to be mentioned later) until I was at a party a few days ago and someone asked me if I have seen or heard from this person. I said no, not in a long time. In fact, the last time I saw him or spoke to him, was decades ago.
That question posed to me brought back some great memories that really reflect how I have not changed my position on this subject in over three decades.
At the time when I was a salesperson for Xerox, one of my territories was Beachwood. It was a highly competitive place to sell copiers due to the business climate of the community and all the newly constructed office buildings and industrial parks. Basically, it was a great territory with tons of new business, but at the same time, it was loaded with every copier competitor looking to sell copiers.
Of the couple of dozen companies that were my competitors, one guy stood out, named Bill Lovell. He was great. So many times after I was there to do a demo on a piece of equipment, he would have an appointment right after me or vice versa.
Finally, after seeing him too many times, I suggested that we get a cup of coffee. Much to my surprise, he said "fine." My goal here was for us to get to know each other. I was fairly confident that if I had all this respect for him – which I did – he might feel the same way about me.
During our breakfast at Denny’s, I told him that I would much rather “lose” to him than any of the other people selling copiers in our territory. We then agreed to an informal pact to highly respect each other’s abilities, not to “sell against” each other, and not have to just lower our price to get a deal. I am not talking about price fixing, but to admire the competition, and let the customer decide what was best for them.
I had no idea this idea or concept would stay with me to my late 50s and how I continue to view my competitors. My No. 1 competitor in Cleveland was Marv Montgomery, and nationwide it was Jeffrey Gitomer, whom I considered good friends.
Gitomer was an incredible entrepreneur who owned a number of hair salons and spas. His knowledge and understanding of customer service was incredible. When he was contemplating becoming a speaker as well, I was thrilled to introduce him to my clients.
You are probably asking, “Why would you do such a thing?”
Simple, he was great at what he does, he can help my clients as well and why not help a friend to get started in the business? Now here is the kicker: He was doing way more business than me, has an incredible reputation and was one of the country’s top speakers in customer service. What took me 15 years to build in my business, he did in five. Both Montgomery and Gitomer were tremendous guys.
What can I say about Gitomer, except that I always referred to myself as “Jeffrey light.” In the mid-1990s over lunch, he said that he wanted to be America’s top sales trainer and he was.
Now, do you see why I embrace competition? I hope one day, you are as fortunate to do the same.