by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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Unless you are a heavyweight UFC Fighter, this is not your competition. And be thankful for that, Francis Ngannou is a scary dude…
In some ways it seems “romantic” to envision your competition as the scariest incarnation possible, and you have to go out and slay the dragon. I guess I have used that in some cases in the past, and in some of those cases, it may have worked. Want to know what I think works better, and way more often? Hear me out before you flinch and dismiss what I am about to say…
Your outside competition is largely irrelevant… YOU are your competition.
That’s right, what you are really doing, in the grand scheme of things, is honing your skill or craft AT THE EXPENSE OF your external competitors. They are a test of mettle in your current state. In most cases, what really matters is when you get your chance to shine, and how you perform in that narrow window of time. How well do you know your sh*t, how well prepared were you for this test? Did you do your homework, and formulate a game plan accordingly? These are the real questions to ask, and ask YOURSELF.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Of course I need to know what my competitors offer versus what we have, what their strengths and weaknesses are, etc.” is important. This is the homework part I mentioned earlier. This is not something you would be hyper focused on DURING your moment of performance, but rather have already crafted your plan to include offense and defense for these things. This is done in the preparation stage, not during a sales call or in the middle of a match.
The real test is all the days surrounding the moments you get “on stage”. When you view the you of yesterday as your benchmark to clear for today, you’ll improve. If you improve 1% over yesterday, and do that 200-300 days a year, well even you can do the math on that. ;-)
The time spent in preparation is more less than the time you spend under true competitive stress, or at least it SHOULD be. You can’t expect high level results without putting the time in, consistently, day in and day out. This is what raises your game, and sets your default performance level that you can still win with. Read this blog post as an expansion on that last thought. (blog #156 – You’re only as good as your worst day)
As a professional athlete, I did everything within my power to control on and off of the court to maximize my time in competition. I worked out twice a day, I practiced, I learned new things and practiced them twice as much until I had them down pat. I ate like an athlete, I did recovery massage and stretching work, I rested. I did as much as I could to improve my chances when “under the lights”. In sales, I use this same approach; I research the prospective client I am going to call upon, know as much about them as I can in advance. I get connected with the right decision makers before I bother doing much explanation of my company’s service. I know my company’s service and marketing materials inside and out. I can do my entire PP presentation with out the PP in front of me. I ask questions, I LISTEN, and then I align my company’s service as solutions to the problem(s) the prospective client shares with me.
I control what can be controlled. I am responsible for “showing up” during game time, and executing to the best of my ability. EVERY TIME. You never know when a great opportunity will present itself, and you need to be able to capture that slim moment of chance and run with it. It could be a momentary lapse in your opponent’s will or concentration. It could be a quiet comment from one of the “others” at the conference table who actually makes things run in the background, but would never lead a conversation when their boss is in the room. These players are your biggest advocate or your biggest hurdles depending on how you interact with them. When you do your preparation, you are poised to strike when an opportunity presents itself.
So, back to the idea of the outside competition being largely irrelevant…I realize you may read that and disagree. Here is the thing…your opponents or competitors are how your test yourself, your knowledge and skills, and do so under pressure. Practicing at a high level is critical to build your confidence, but if you can’t hit at least close to that level during “game time”, you are under performing when it matters most. How many times have you heard phrases like:
If only I could fight in the octagon like I do in the gym
or
I practiced this presentation a done times, why do I stumble through it when I have the floor?
Perfect Practice Makes Perfect. Do everything in your power to leave these problems behind you. Don’t forget, your competition has the same struggles you do; even if they are bigger, older, more talented, whatever, they still have to show up and do the dance. In racquetball, i knew that in a game to 11 points, if I could score 5 points before the other player did, I leveled the playing field against anyone on the planet. Doesn’t mean I would be guaranteed a win, but it means that I have made their job of winning much harder and I have effectively upped the pressure on them quite a bit. In a sales scenario, I have made a living beating competition that is larger, more established, less expensive and a host of other seemingly difficult hurdles to clear. Easy retorts include:
The big companies are too big to take care of you like my company will…
We are the 2.0 version of what the “old stand-by” created 20 years ago…
Are you getting the same value from them as you would be from us at only slightly more cost…
There are always opportunities to poke holes in the competition, whether on the court, on the field or in sales. They are not immune to a well-informed and totally prepared sales person who came into a meeting with a win in mind. Nothing is a given, and you have to fight strategically for everything you get a swing at. The better you do, the easier it gets, as your win list in your sport or your client list grows and self-reinforces itself. I knew people would look at the draw sheet on the wall during the tournament and think “Oh Crap, Darrin is in my half of the bracket.” Chalk that up as a psychological win before the match ever started. When my competitors know my hat is in the ring for my day job, I know they feel it, and they adjust their pricing options to try to gain an edge. Soon your reputation will precede you, and it will start to feel like you are swimming down river for a change. It is a great place to be…trust me!
So remember, the competition is a measuring stick as to your progress. Don’t hate them, THANK them for motivating you to be your best when it counts. THAT is making the best use of them in their place in the circle. The rest is up to you; all the hard work, blood, sweat and tears, are up to you. You have to put in the work or you will have mediocre results at best. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get into the game (any game) to be an also-ran…
Do the work, and test yourself against your competitors regularly. Fix what needs repaired or revamped and get back in the ring. Improve, refine, and streamline your approach. Become the one THEY worry about, instead of it being the other way around.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.

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