Why Should They Hire You Instead of the Competition?


Article by C.J. HaydenWhen business is slow, every lead has to count. If there may be fewer opportunities for you to pursue, you need to take maximum advantage of every one. When you pursue a prospective client all the way through the sales cycle, but in the end they choose someone else, the rejection can be painful. “Why wasn’t it me?” you keep asking yourself.

So how does a client decide who they are going to hire? It all comes down to three critical factors: match, proof, and trust.

How Good Is the Match?

The first criterion your clients use to judge you is how close a match you are to their specific needs. They compare you to the competition on factors like relevance and depth of your experience, number and type of clients you’ve served in the past, promised delivery time or availability, and your price. They also consider aspects of your personality, like how you might fit with their team or how easy you seem to work with.

While price is certainly on this list, it’s often not the deciding factor. A young couple I know spoke with three different wedding photographers, then chose the most expensive one. Why? Because they thought he was the one who could best provide what they most wanted.

It’s rare when you can beat the competition on every point of evaluation. If you’re the most experienced, you may also cost more. If you are available to start work immediately, you may have a less impressive client roster. So it’s essential to ask your prospective clients what’s important to them, and not just make your own assumptions.

The photographers who lost my friends’ business never asked them what they were looking for in a photographer. The one who ultimately got their vote first asked them about their needs, then told them how he could deliver what they were looking for, and finally, he provided proof.

What Proof Can You Show?

Don’t expect clients to just take your word for what you can do. Be prepared to present evidence, such as a portfolio of your work, testimonials from satisfied clients, or written case studies of solutions you’ve delivered in the past. Examples like these can prove that you’ll deliver what you promise.

Expect that your prospects will be talking to the competition, and consider how you can present your case more strongly than your competitors can. Go beyond what everyone else in your profession is already doing to prove their value.

The photographer who got my friends’ business had a great portfolio, but so did the others they talked to. The difference was that the winning photographer had not only photos in his portfolio, but also testimonial letters. The comments in the letters proved to my friends that he could do exactly what they wanted, which was to take their photos quickly and unobtrusively without a lot of staged moments.

Often the person who gets the job isn’t the best at what they do, they’re just the best at presenting what they do. A graphic designer client of mine lost a big job for a corporate annual report to a competitor. When she bravely asked the client why he chose her competitor, she learned that the other designer would be serving as art director for the project, overseeing all aspects of producing the report.

“But I could do that for you, too,” protested my client. Her corporate prospect replied, “Maybe so, but you never told us that, and the other designer did.”

How Much Do They Trust You?

One of the biggest challenges in selling professional services is that what you offer is intangible. Your clients can’t try on or taste exactly what you will do for them in advance, to be sure it will suit them. So they need to trust you enough to believe you’ll deliver what you promise.

The person who the client trusts the most will usually get the job, regardless of other considerations. You can increase the confidence clients have in you through avenues like giving away a sample of your services, providing a third-party endorsement of your abilities, or building your personal relationship with them.

Complimentary or low-cost samples aren’t quite the same as an experience of your paid service (after all, you don’t want to give THAT away), but they do help build trust. A third-party endorsement in the form of a referral from someone the client knows can be a powerful trust-builder. And getting to know the client better on a one-to-one basis will always increase their trust in you.

What these suggestions point to, though, is what can ultimately be the most important factor in winning a job over the competition — how did you encounter these prospects in the first place? Were they referred to you by someone they trust? Have they had an opportunity to “sample” you through a complimentary consultation or a workshop? Have you built a personal relationship with them over time?

Or did you approach them cold, as a complete unknown, with no established credibility, and are now trying to build their trust, surpass the competition, and close a sale all at the same time?

Think of these three factors for beating the competition — match, proof, and trust — as a recipe where you can sometimes substitute one for the other. When you aren’t the closest match to what the client is seeking, you can overcome it with strong proof of your abilities and a lot of trust. When you don’t have much proof, a good match and the client’s trust that you can do what you say will often be enough.

But if the client doesn’t trust you, there’s no substitution. In a competitive market, trust can be the secret ingredient that wins the sale every time.

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