You can ignore your strategy

Displacement Markets: How To Survive

Practical case

In 2000 I visited an Internet service provider to whom I wanted to offer sales training. The sales manager got rid of me on the following grounds: “We have too many orders anyway. Why should we still acquire there. "

That was true at the time. The Internet sector was still in full growth. I then asked the sales manager: “What if the order situation changes?” He was completely convinced: “That won't happen. It goes on and on ”. Just a year later, the market collapsed completely.

This sales manager was certainly particularly optimistic. But the growth euphoria is widespread. Who likes to think about the next crisis in an upswing? But when this happens, you have to react calmly and deliberately.

Create new differentiators

Your main task, of course, is to find a niche for yourself. With new or improved products, you can offer your customers advantages and thus decision-making aids.


A machine tool manufacturer was suddenly ousted from its position of dominance when a competitor came onto the market with an equivalent machine at a slightly lower price.

Fortunately, the company's engineers hadn't slept: Changes in the power supply meant that the machine now required 30% less electricity. The advantage of saving energy was therefore profitable compared to the lower price of the competitive product.

But of course you cannot always develop a new product advantage so quickly.

Find dissatisfied customers

Even if your product is only as good as your competitor's, you have a chance. As soon as customers have been disappointed and want to switch providers, you can step in. To do this, you should ...

  • ensure that you are seen positively by customers through references, good press work and recommendation marketing.
  • build personal relationships through regular networking with key contacts.
  • also be useful for “non-customers”, for example through valuable specialist information or training.

In other words: The moment a customer is ready to switch due to a problem with a competitor, they have to think of you.

Rely on seriousness

Many companies rely on price wars in times of crisis. They are still trying to offer cheaper than the competition. But medium-sized companies in particular often cannot keep up and weaken their economic strength as a result.

In the long run, however, reliability and credibility tend to prevail. Develop ambitious quality goals for your company in order to become better, faster and more reliable than your competitors. Use regular customer surveys to check how good you are already and communicate your success. That secures you more customers in the long term than cheap prices.

Stand out with your service

Even if your products are comparable: You can still offer advantages through better service.

  • Develop additional services. An electricity provider helps its business customers with energy management. In this way, the companies discover potential savings.
  • Make investments easier for your customers through financing or operator models.
  • Make your services faster, more reliable or less complicated than your competitors.

Create other faces

Sometimes a new salesperson is enough to convince a customer. If you have been visiting a customer in vain for a long time, offer them a new contact person. He may come up with other ideas in order to win the customer or arouse more sympathy or trust.

Buttenmüller editorial office