There may have been a time when there was enough business for everyone. But for many companies, that isn’t true anymore.

The easiest people to sell your products and services to are those who are already buying what you sell. And the best place to find them is at your competition.

When I was in the truck-tire sales business and wanted to find new customers, I sat out in front of my competitions’ stores and wrote down customers’ names and telephone numbers, which were listed on their service vehicles.

When my appliance business was slow, I purchased a large amount of promotional pots and pans sets and advertised: Bring in your receipts from my competitors (I actually listed the competitors’ names) for your free deluxe set of pots and pans.

I had to pay for the pots and pans, but the gain in customers over the long term sure made that up quickly.

Here are 10 ways to take customers from your competition.

1. Build relationships with their customers.

It takes a bit of time, but when you build a better relationship with your competition’s customers than they currently have, constantly providing them with information or products that improve their business or lives, you will eventually be the product and service provider they choose. Remember this formula: relationships = trust = sales.

2. Do your homework.

Before you make your first cold call - by telephone or in person - to your competition’s customers, learn everything you can about the industry, their business and them. Learn to talk their language and move at their pace, and learn how the competition is trying to solve their problems. Then find a better way to do it. Remember the No. 1 rule in selling: The one who solves customers problems the easiest for them will get the sale.

3. Shop the competition.

The best way to find out what your competition is doing is to ask them. Call or go in person. Act like a customer. First of all, while they are talking to you they cannot be out selling. And, you will find out everything they tell a customer. Learn and use the good selling points and techniques, and learn and do not use their bad sales activities. You can even get them to send you all of their brochures, pamphlets, samples, etc. All you have to do is ask.

4. Contact their customers in different media.

Don’t go head-to-head in advertising and marketing. Market where the competition doesn’t.

5. Increase the frequency their customers hear from you.

The more familiar the customers become with you through advertising and promotions, the faster you will establish a relationship with them.

6. Ask your customers for referrals.

If your customers are buying your products and services, their friends, colleagues and relatives are buying the same products and services from your competition.

7. Contact their customers directly.

Telephone them or meet with them in person.

8. Increase the offer.

Win the customer by simply increasing the value of the offer.

9. Thank their customers for considering you.

After you have lost a sale to the competition, thank the lost customer with a thank-you note or small gift for considering you as a supplier. Your competition probably is not thanking them. You will have set yourself up for their next purchase.

10. Ask, ask, ask.

You can never fail if all you do is ask for the sale.

Bob Janet is a motivational speaker who specializes in delivering key selling and marketing skills and techniques. He uses his 40-plus years of selling and marketing as owner and operator of his retail, wholesales and manufacturing businesses combined with his presentation style, including audience participation and real-life business stories and examples.

Contact him at (800) 286-1203; fax (704) 882-4148; e-mail bob@bobjanet.com; see www.BobJanet.com on the Internet.