Beat Your Competition Into the Ground Customers remember what's put out in front of them first, so it pays to be fast.

By John Brubaker

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

For political candidates, if your signs are in the ground first, you will be memorable and make a first impression. If you're second or anything thereafter you've just become visual spam.

Beating your competition into the ground isn't just good advice for politicians. It's also a great metaphor for you and your business. If you're not first, you're forgotten. I share this with you because the single best piece of advice my coaching mentor gave me when I became a college head coach was "Be the first one in the living room." He was referring to being the first recruiter to make a home visit with a blue-chip prospect's family during recruiting season.

Related: Screw the Competition. Entrepreneurs Need to Dominate From the Very Start.

Following his sage advice off the field turned out to be the biggest difference-maker over the years in beating my competitors on the field. I kept track of how many top recruits I signed when I was "the first in the living room" vs. any other spot and was amazed with what I found. I noticed that if I was the first recruiter to visit with our top prospects it was game over and I won! I was the lord of the living room, signing almost every single one.

If I was second or later I rarely got the kid, with one exception -- if I was last. Believe it or not, that was when I also was able to land some of those top prospects.

Success leaves clues and there's a good reason why this was the case. It's a concept called serial position effect, which is the tendency of people to remember the first and last items in a series best and the middle ones worse.

The concept was discovered by Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist. He found that when asked to remember a list of items in any order, people tend to recall the item in the beginning of the list best (the primacy effect), the last item second best (the recency effect) and middle items not nearly as well.

Being first isn't just about primacy, it's about being responsive. The big no longer beat the small. In today's economy it's the fast that beat the slow. For example, recent research from the National Association of Realtors indicated that over 60 percent of home buyers use the first realtor who gets in front of them.

Related: Mark Cuban: There's No Playing Nice With Your Competition

Your business is in that story too because if that's the case with the single largest purchase a person makes in their lifetime, it's also how they make their smaller decisions. Regardless of industry, when you're first more often, you'll make more sales.

Case in point: I needed to get my driveway seal coated this fall and I asked my neighbors for referrals. They each gave me a different company. I called both to get a quote. Company A showed up the next morning, while Company B still hasn't responded. The man from Company A and I sat in my living room, and he recruited me so to speak. He explained how his company would save me money (compared to his competitors), save me time (compared to doing it myself) and how he could solve the problems we identified with my driveway.

Suffice it to say, I signed with him and his company seal coated my driveway the very next day.

People will usually buy from the company that can save them time, save (or make) them money or solve a problem for them. If you're responsive and can deliver any of the above you will win the business more often than not.

With today's technology, between call forwarding, Google voice and virtual assistants, there's no excuse for a lack of responsiveness.

Do you have a policy on how fast your people respond to leads, referrals and inquiries? If not, you need to create your version of the "first in the living room" policy. Otherwise you'll get beaten into the ground.

Related: Don't Wage a Price War. Win Sales by Eliminating Your Competition.

John Brubaker

Performance Consultant, Speaker & Award-Winning Author

John Brubaker is a nationally renowned performance consultant, speaker and award-winning author. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, Coach Bru helps organizations and individuals turn their potential into performance.

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