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Never Badmouth Your Competition,
Let Your Prospects Do It for You

Managing your prospect’s expectations and beliefs about your own offering is important. However, managing your prospect’s expectations and beliefs about your competition can be even more critical, especially if you are involved in a hotly contested and competitive showdown. The trick is to do it subtly and professionally without losing credibility.

When we openly disparage our competition, we invalidate and dishonor our prospects and we project our own insecurities and doubts about the value we bring to the selling table. So instead of directly going after your competition, consider insinuating small morsels of doubt to get your prospect to formulate their own conclusions. Keep in mind that the best salesperson at the selling event is always the prospect. Let them sell themselves and reach the same conclusions that you’d like them to by prompting them with strategically crafted questions.

The following is a hypothetical scenario:

Your prospect met with your competition last week and they are sitting down with you for the first time. You have some clear advantages you want to highlight, and your competition has some real liabilities that you want to exploit. Here are some questions I use in my business to set up my competition that I know in advance will yield unsatisfying responses by my prospects. They also are effective in setting traps or landmines for my competition to stumble upon in the future:

  • “When you asked them about their specific plans for reinforcement of the training, what did they tell you?”
  • “I’m curious… how much time did they spend learning about your problems as opposed to you learning about their training?”
  • “When they told you that they were going to first assess and evaluate your team before they do the training, did you think that was a good idea?”
  • “What kind of examples did they give you about their specialization of working exclusively with technology companies?”

Invariably when I ask these questions the responses are frequently, “They didn’t bring that up” and “They couldn’t sufficiently answer that.” To add insult to injury, I subtly respond, “Is that a problem?”; “Does that concern you?”; or “Is that something you’d like to have?” And then I follow up with asking them, “Why do you want that?” By avoiding a direct attack, I maintain my credibility and honor my prospect’s past decisions.

Here are some generic questions and statements some of my clients have used in my classes to get the prospects emotionally involved and dig a deeper hole for themselves:

  • “I’m surprised you are dissatisfied with them. They generally have a good reputation.” Disagreeing with them will sometimes have them argue even more fervently on your behalf.
  • “What?” This gets them to restate and repeat their frustration again.
  • “It doesn’t sound bad enough to justify changing.”
  • “But you’ve been doing business with them for 10 years.”
  • “I assume when the problem came up that they immediately approached you, as opposed to you having to bring it to their attention?”

By planting seeds of doubt and craftily laying landmines, you will never need to jeopardize or compromise your credibility by badmouthing your competition. In allowing your prospect to re-experience their frustration and verbalize their dissatisfaction, you will cause much more harm to your competition’s position than if you were to directly challenge it yourself. Litigation lawyers know this tenet intimately. They are limited by procedure to only asking questions and not badgering the witness. So they build their case on the idea that the witness will trip up and sell themselves short. Just as in our legal system, the power of implication is so much more powerful than a direct assault.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: https://tangentknowledge.com