Should We Work With Competing Clients?

Real-life scenario: a new lead comes in and it’s one of your existing client’s biggest competitors. Do you turn it down? Or, do you take them on?

Should you inform your existing client that you’re considering working with the other? What do you reveal to the prospective client about your current client? How do you know they are true competitors?

Obviously, a bit of preparation is in order.

First, take steps to establish if there really is a conflict.

A business colleague – Vince Fowler – once answered a similar question for me with, “Is that important to you/them?” and followed up with, “Why is that important?” It made me think.

Consider conflict management best practices.

To make sure we don’t negatively impact the profitability of competing clients (or our own) or the quality of service our businesses provide, we should ask ourselves the following questions:

1. Are they really competitors?

Businesses in the same industry typically focus on different buyers or client types. That means the ways they “compete” with one business could be very different from the way they compete with another business.

In some industries, businesses collaborate, share resources, and work together to raise awareness of their goods or services, considering themselves peers, not competitors. Local craft beer brewers are an excellent example of this.

In other words, we need to look into the specific ways their products and services overlap before we decide if they really compete and whether there’s a possible conflict before turning away the new opportunity.

2. Are we being open and transparent with both?

When there’s even the faintest appearance of a conflict of interest, the biggest mistake we can make is to keep one or both clients in the dark.

Imagine you don’t tell both businesses that you’re working with the other, and one of them discovers this fact on their own. If that happens, you not only risk losing one or both clients, you also risk damaging your reputation.

Before we decide to work with clients who offer the same products and services, we could sit down with each other to discuss the situation. Get their input. And, be prepared for whatever response they provide.

3. Have we taken measures to manage potential conflicts?

This can be challenging and time-consuming, but it’s work we need to do to make sure we can provide superior service to all of our clients. That means taking steps to make sure there are no potential conflicts in working with more than one client in the same space. 

For example, we might need to have different members of our teams working separately on each account. We also might need to separate the work each of those teams performs.

One way to do that is by hiring an ethics officer (or a guiding policy) to oversee the work of our teams.

Finally, it’s smart to keep in regular touch with both clients, letting them know about any challenges you discover. Keeping communications open is key to building trust and loyalty.

Creating effective strategies that help us increase the number and quality of clients we have is one way to grow our businesses, but it’s not the only one. 

We also need an effective digital marketing strategy, one that helps us reach our company’s major goals; everything from generating more leads to increasing conversions and closing more sales.