Did you know that Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, used to order pizzas from local pizza joints whenever he was on the road?

And Sam Walton used to visit Kmart stores and look for ways he could improve Walmart. He carried a small yellow notepad and even a voice recorder to record employees and customers.

Why would these mega-successful guys spend time doing this?

Here’s why.

It’s easy to look at the competition and think we understand everything they’re doing.

And even with those doing better than us, it’s easy to tell ourselves that we understand what they’re doing.

“If only we could close a few more sales, we’d be right up there with them.”

But usually, if you look a little deeper, you’ll find there are sales efforts, marketing strategies, and other processes in place that we don’t naturally find on the surface.

One of the best ways to get below the surface is to shop the competition, and I’ve talked about different ways to do this before (https://noahfleming.com/for-the-birds/here).

  • Visit their websites, and call them.
  • Visit their businesses and buy from them.
  • Do they have a mailing list? If so, join it and see what sort of information they’re sending to their customers.
  • Use their contact form on their website and see how long it takes them to follow up.
  • If they send a sales rep out, take a meeting, and pay attention not to what they do, but HOW they do it.

Here’s an example of an exercise we did with a client that was huge for them.

We visited their primary competition and spent time talking to their staff.
We asked questions.
We got on their mailing lists.
We pushed for discounts.
We completed the sale.
Afterward, we wanted to see if and how they followed up.

When we completed all of this, we wrote up the experience and shared it with our client’s team.

We didn’t let them know it was one of their main competitors. We simply asked them to read over the experience and let us know what they thought of it. Did it sound lousy? Or did it sound like a great experience?

For the most part, the majority of them were thrilled and thought the experience sounded thoroughly fantastic. In fact, most of them were convinced the story was about them.

It was only once we told them where the story came from that their heads dropped in bewilderment.

In all reality, they were only doing about 20% of what the competitor was doing.

But it wasn’t about the amount of things they weren’t doing, it was more about observing HOW their competitor was doing some of the things they weren’t.

How a customer was treated when they talked in the door.
How the phones were answered.
How they handled support requests.
Etc. Etc.

Not only had they learned a ton of things they could be doing better, but they realized it was time to up their game.

Competitive intelligence is incredibly important, and one of the best ways to get it is to play prospect to your competitors.

You can secret shop your company all day long, and this is a fantastic way to improve, but you can often learn something far more valuable by watching your competitors with a careful eye.

Even if you’re already the undisputed leader in your field, there’s always something to be learned.

Both Sam and Tom knew there was always something they could be doing a little bit better. They just knew that it meant sometimes looking under a roof that belonged to someone else.

Today’s Key Question: How well do you know your competitors?

Today’s Challenge: In the next five minutes, can you learn something about your competition you didn’t know before? Send me an email and let me know what you learned. (look above for a few ideas)