Do You Ever Network with Your Competition?

Do You Ever Network with Your Competition?

It may really sound weird, but do you ever network with your competition? I mean set up a face to face meeting with someone in your industry to discuss common synergies to help each other grow your businesses? Do you still believe in an “Us against Them” environment? Or do you recognize not every business can be great at every aspect of a product or service and it may make sense to hand some things off to a business better focused on a few things you do not do so well? There are countless examples of large companies that try to do so much, they basically stink at customer service. Do your clients think you stink because you try to do too much? Let’s consider some facts.

The first fact is your direct competitors could be your best referral source. They are working with clients and prospects in the market for your product or service already. Not indirectly but directly ready to purchase. If you worked a deal with a competitor selling some but not all of your products or services and they stated to the client, “we do this and that, but we will have ‘XYZ, your company’, to do this part,” your competition just sold your business. That is the second fact. It would be easy for you to reciprocate and refer your clients back to them in the same fashion. A prospect being referred by a competitor would not question the company’s integrity. They just assume they use the best and your company is the best. This works vice versa for them as well. Now your two businesses are helping each other not only be better at what you specialize in, but by forming this alliance, the rest of your competition will have trouble competing.

For example, this week, I had a meeting with a financial planner that specializes in setting up 401k retirement plans for small businesses. I am a life insurance and annuity broker that sets up alternative retirement plans for small businesses. We truly view each other as direct competition. But we both decided may be there is a way to work together since we call on the same businesses, so we set up a meeting. After an hour and a half meeting we figured out that we could help each other in so many profitable ways, it could literally end up being one of my best networking partnerships. I could not have accomplished this relationship without taking a risk and meeting with him face to face to see if it would be possible to work together. My risk was only 90 minutes of time. Had things not worked out, it only cost me 90 minutes of my time, but if and when this pans out, I stand to make thousands for 90 minutes of my time.

Sometimes we spend our time networking with business people that can indirectly help our business and we are afraid to meet with our direct competition. Not all of our competitors have others best interest at heart, but a short meeting will bring that out very quickly. Do some networking and I promise you will find the right referral partner to help you grow your business. Remember, the key to “networking” is “working”.

“First, you have to be visible in the community. You have to get out there and connect with people. It’s not called net-sitting or net-eating. It’s called networking. You have to work at it.”—Dr. Ivan Misner


Image by Stuart Miles images at www.freedigitalphotos.net


Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger, author and team leader with over 28 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.

32 Responses to Do You Ever Network with Your Competition?

  • Tim,

    Great blog. When I owned a pest control business, I built relationships with other pest control people. If someone called our office and had a problem beyond our capability, we’d refer them to another company who could help them. This concept is foreign to many business owners but so powerful.

    Thanks for the blog.

    • I can’t imagine NOT helpng one another, or is the customer the fodder? Do we not serve the USA citzen and the Canadians, and both are working for us very well, many of our agencies have put a “Special” department inside their agency for people with a disability, mom, husbands, part time, and so on.

      The more people work together the more help the customer gets.


  • James, thank you for your kind words and for your experience. It is a shame this concept is foreign to so many. Thank you for sharing.

  • I definitely have and believe it can be a great source of fresh insight.

  • Crawford, thank you for sharing, I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Good points, Tim. I’ve seen the importance of a good team. If everyone is on the same page, and there is a good culture in the company, it makes a world of a difference!

  • What a great perspective! Thanks for sharing this Tim.

  • While maybe not exactly apples-to-apples, back when I worked at Ryder Truck Rental investigating suspected fraudulent or “staged” accident claims, I maintained an ongoing relationship with the fraud claims manager for U-Haul.

  • Absolutely! Building rapport with others in your industry is a great tool. At the end of the day, making sure the people who come to us to trust us to provide the best insurance protection might not be able to actually be with us, but having someone on deck who can is priceless!

  • Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

  • I do network with my competition (former coworkers). We bounce ideas off of each other and make suggestions where we can. We’ve even referred clients to each other. If I can’t do something for a client I want to know they are in good hands.

  • Networking is a nice thought, but I am busy working on a plan to crush the competition. I’ve never been good at playing nice! Besides what’s the point of competition if you’re not going to treat it as such? It’s nothing personal…it’s just business!

  • Lisa, thank you for sharing. George, I am sorry you still feel this way. I wish you and your clients the best of luck

  • In college football (and I imagine other sports), after a game a coach will often call the opposing staff and ask questions to find out what weaknesses they need to improve. I can’t say I’ve done much networking with the competition, but I have, like Lisa, bounced ideas off of the competition to fine tune what I’m doing. It’s a great opportunity to learn.

  • Tim – Why are you still sorry? I said this recently to someone who was trying to sell me something and got irritated at my tongue-in-cheek response…luck has absolutely nothing to do with the success that has helped build and grow our agency for over 70 years. I refuse to leave any part of my business to chance. We’ve spent too much time and energy building trust within the community to rely, even partly, on luck!

  • Ben, I couldn’t agree more. George, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. It was not an insult. Congrats on your 70 years of doing business. I wish you many more.

  • Tim – No worries, I was not insulted at all. That being said, I prefer the traditional definition of luck, which is “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”

  • I just did this the other day! Made a new friend at least!

  • When discussing business with a competitor it is important to not violate any anti-trust laws. We are constrained from certain activities with the competition. It is important to stay away from specifics or non-compete agreements.

  • Our AHU chapter is an excellent example of competitors working together toward common, industry related and charitable goals. When I was younger, I stayed away from competitors, thinking they are the enemy. To the contrary, I have learned that they are the people who are most like me. I go to church with several of them. They are friendships I value and people I admire.

    Another thing I have learned: there is plenty of opportunity to go around. Focus on clients, markets and personal development; not enemies. God made a big world with room enough for all of us.

  • Angelo and Darryl, very good points and very well stated. Thank you both for sharing.

  • Tim you often deliver personal stories regarding ideas or concepts we hear over and over again from sales trainers who we might feel can’t relate to our specific industry. You make those concepts real for us. Thank you for that.

  • Corban, I cannot thank you enough for those kind words. I am truly grateful and wish you the best!

  • I do network with others. I have a retail insurance agency and I network with captive insurance agents. I am able to provide services and products that Farmers, State Farm and Allstate agents are not able to offer. I also refer to my captive partners when I have a customer that I am not able to help. When ever you partner with it has to be one of trust.

  • Great article Tim, collaboration with our competition has had a significant impact on the growth of JAG. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great article! We network with our competitors all the time. We can always learn new things to help our customers out.

  • Trust. I can see this working well once rust has been established.

  • Lare, trust is the lynch pin to making this work. Never network with an untrustworthy person whether they are a competitor or not. Without credibility there will never be profitability for either party.

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