A strategy for gaining a competitive advantage over your best competition will lead to increased market share and long-term growth and profit.

Frederick the Great, an outstanding military strategist said, “It is pardonable to be defeated, but never to be surprised.”

This bit of wisdom appeals equally well in today’s business world. Many business people today define “competitive advantage” in terms of technical advances, lower prices, economy of scale, manufacturing and mass marketing advantage. These are old measures of competitive advantage. They do not fit into today’s technological world – a world that uses warfare concepts as a guide to successful sales and profits and technology as a weapon of war.

Today, “competitive advantage” is a multifaceted process with several related components, all of which are designed to provide an organization with an advantage over its competition in the global marketplace. In a world of mature markets, most of us have learned that competitive advantage is the only way to steal customers and market share from our competition and to grow our business profitable.

Here are the three critical facets of today’s competitive advantage.

The Information Facet

Corporate intelligence is the process of putting seemingly unrelated pieces of information together to create a new picture of the market and competition. It is a way of using sophisticated information-gathering tools to form disparate bits of data into very enlightening “moments of truth’.

Until recently, “corporate intelligence” was an oxymoron. The information gathering systems were crude and the use of the information was haphazard at best. Today, however, organizations have developed inelegance gathering systems with links around the world. These new information systems transform information from boring library reading to market leadership.

In 1985, AT&T startd the most effetive competitive operation in the telecommunications industry at the time. They called it AAA – Access to AT&T Analysis. This system allowed every employee of the firm to send bits and pieces of information on competitiors to a central source where it collated and sent to top management strategists to be used to devleop a competitive advantage.

The Strategy Facet

Strategy has the same role to sales and marketing as quality has to manufacturing. Both strategy and quality are foundations of success in their respective areas.

Strategy, loosely defined, is a game lan. It is a method of gaining customers, growing market share and moving ahead of the competition. Strategy is both an offensive and defensive opportunity. While you analyze and plot your game plan., you must also do the same for all of your competitiors. Strategy means keeping compeittiors from succeeding at their game plan, while at the same time, achieving yours. Strategy is the alignment of all yoru assets to achieve maximum utilization at minimum cost for maximum value.

The People Facet

Professional salespeople are always on the lokout for new ideas, for competitive products and for any significant market changes.

They drive competitive advantage from the bottom up, rather than from the top down.

Every team member in the organization is a player in gaining competitive advantage. In markets where products and services are basically the same, it is the people in the firm swho make the difference and give it uniqueness.

People drive market advantage much more than technology. People drive produt and service acceptance in mature markets where features, benefits and values are interchangeable. Peole drive quality, customer satisfaction and long-term relationships that lead to growth and profit.

It will never do to be surprised in today’s competitive global marketplace. You may be defeated in certain endeavors, but like an outstanding chess player you should know why you were efeated and have a new game plan for the rematch.