Who are your closest competitors? How are you going to beat your competition? What makes you better than your competition? What are the differentiating factors between you and your competition?

You get asked these types of questions all the time from your prospects, your clients, and your internal staff. Don't overdo trying to answer them.

Reading service firm business plans and talking to service business leaders about becoming more competitive are a part of what I do every week. Invariably, I find that the people who run services firms waste a lot of time and effort worrying about, and angling against, other firms that provide similar services. Usually, it's just not worth your time and focus.

Below you'll find an outline of four common mistakes that service firm leaders make and five tips on how to save time, money, and heartache when thinking about the dreaded competition.

Mistake #1: Beaten-to-Death Research

Some service firm business and marketing plans list and describe page after page of information about their competition. "Over the past three months, we were able to successfully locate 77 other negotiation consulting firms. Detailed descriptions follow, along with our unique positioning against each one..."

My Reaction: What a waste of three months of someone's time. Most people would laugh at an accountant who confidently stated, "I have discovered that there are 142 other accounting firms in the state and can confirm that 131 of them offer a number of services similar to ours." Yet somehow this information shows up in service firm marketing plan after marketing plan as if it were a necessary component.

Mistake #2: Market and Service Offering Reluctance

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image of Mike Schultz

Mike Schultz is president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company, and director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research. He is the bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling. He also writes for the RAIN Selling Blog.

LinkedIn: Mike Schultz

Twitter: @mike_schultz