Whether it’s recovery or recession, it’s time to re-evaluate your business values

Expert provides a guide to gaining more business in an unsure economy


U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, has been trumpeting the end of the recession and the emergence of economic recovery in this country – but Americans and business people are still unsettled and simply aren’t buying it.

Eighty-six percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey said they think the United States is still in a recession, with 13 percent saying the nation’s economic downturn has ended. According to the survey, 42 percent say the country is in a serious recession, 35 percent call it a moderate recession, and one in 10 characterize it as a mild recession.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, according to one business expert. The practice of not “poaching” – stealing clients or customers from a competitor – used to exist as a gentlemen’s agreement among many business people. To do so was, at least, impolite, and at worst, unethical. With conflicting economic indicators, however, all bets are off.

“My definition of unethical is this: Failing to do anything and everything within my power, and without breaking the law, to provide for my loved ones, my employees, and my employees’ families,” said Don Farrell, author of Ethical Theft, How to Steal Business from Your Competition, from Brio Publishing.

When it comes to appropriating new clients, Farrell’s advice is simple:

1. Know your competition: List active/subtle market similarities and differences you can build on. What makes you different should always make you a better choice.

2. Make it personal: Show your clients that you are concerned about them, not just their business.

3. Find the facts: Know what their wants and needs are so you can tell them how you will address them.

4. Show your clients the big picture: Map out how you can meet their specific wants/needs and what makes you their best partner to do the job.

5. Ask about the client’s processes and timelines: This is the best way to find out who makes the final decisions.

6. Pick and use the right approach: Find out what their personality type is and gear your pitch to that.

7. Create a follow-up plan and follow up sooner than the client expects.

8. Seek to improve: Find out from the client what it would take for you to do better.

According to Farrell, there are times when you won’t be able to pirate a customer from your competition. This is the time to start asking the client questions. Ask them what their competitor is supplying that they are not. The answer here is usually service-based: Provide what the client needs better, faster and more personally. Go beyond delivering satisfaction and instead look to deliver what will drive loyalty.

“Create loyalty in your sales staff and you have a recipe for success,” he said. “If your competition does not use this tactic, they are primed for you to ‘steal’ their best employees. It’s in their better interests to work for a better company where they are challenged and rewarded to be their best. Keep and eye out to acquire people you can ultimately trust. Be careful of someone coming to you with your competition’s business plan. They will also be capable of doing the same to you.”

Farrell believes that loyal employees can extend a genuine loyalty culture to your clients. If they deliver what the clients want, when they want it and always go beyond expectations, companies can successfully steal both staff and business from their competitors – and keep it.

“If businesses did a better job of stealing employees and business from their competition then we, as consumers, would be getting better service,” he added.