Have you ever had the opportunity to criticize a competitor?
I’ve always been dead against criticizing the competition, for a number of reasons, which I’ll outline in a minute. But I also know that’s not the way every one else is playing the game. There are some salespeople out there who still believe that good sales practice is about proving to the customer not only that your solution is the best, but that you know best. That you’re right, and everyone else is wrong. These kinds of salespeople see sales as a confrontation, in which the only good outcome is for the customer to submit to the sales rep’s will. For these kinds of salespeople, sales will always be a power play. And that’s just not how I see sales at all. For me, sales is all about helping people.
Anyway, I’m not going to Jerry Maguire you with my manifesto today. Instead, for those of you wondering ‘Should I dis the competition?’ here are five really good reasons why you shouldn’t.
1. Discrediting your competitors does nothing to add value.
First off, we all sell on value, right? What does your solution have to offer? Not what does your competitor’s solution lack. Your customer knows all that anyway – they’ve probably already done a lot of research and run several product comparisons before they agreed to sit down with you. And once you’re in the door, they want to hear how your solution fits their need. They want to know what you bring to the table. They want to hear your insights and learn from your experiences. It should be a positive, forward-looking conversation, not a blow-by-blow account of all the ways your competitors have let people down.
2. Bagging on the competition is unprofessional
Even if your competitors are useless, it’s not your place to say it. Almost anything that comes out of your mouth on this topic is going to sound like sour grapes. In most cases, your customers don’t know you well enough to trust your judgment anyway, and will most likely think less of you for bringing it up.
It’s much more important to stress the benefits of your solution than it is to give airtime to your competitors. If you do your job well, the customer will figure out the rest for themselves.
3. Consider your differentiators – can you afford to dismiss a solution so like yours?
For many businesses the differences between their product and their competitors is so slight that the customer’s final decision is pretty subjective. It might come down to style or personality or how it fits with other products the customer is already using. (It might be that your sales presentation wasn’t as good as your competitor’s!) In that situation, dismissing the competitor’s solution as junk is pretty much guaranteeing yours will be tarred with the same brush
4. Questioning your customer’s judgment doesn’t help build relationships
No one likes to hear that they’re wrong. If a customer is leaning towards your competitor, questioning their judgment is unlikely to change their mind. That’s not to say you can’t ask them why they’re making that decision, or provide compelling reasons why your solution might be a better fit. But straight up telling a customer ‘That’s the wrong decision’ is likely to make them defensive, and that’s not a good foundation for a strong customer relationship.
5. It’s a small world
People change jobs all the time. If you burn your bridges with a contact at company A and they move to another potential customer, chances are you won’t be given a look in. And what happens if that contact moves to a company that’s already on your books? That burned bridge could cut you off from one of your clients.
There is a dirty side to sales, populated by people willing to cut bad deals and badmouth competitors just to put wins on the board. I’m pretty sure their days are numbered. The empowered buyer doesn't put up with it.
Sales is a place where nice guys regularly finish first.