Once is a fluke, twice a coincidence, and three times a trend. So when three sales reps separately let me know last week a competitor had spread damaging rumors about FullContact my immediate reaction was, “We have a pattern here…and this is REALLY good news!” More on that later, but as this turned into a golden coaching opportunity for our team, I thought I’d share.
I know some would beg to differ, but sales people really are human beings. So when they catch a competitor in a lie it’s no surprise they often react the same way anyone else would, with anger! “Those guys are complete sleazebags…” “They’re the worst company in the world—don’t listen to them…” “Buying their product will give you a very uncomfortable rash…” It’s tempting to lash out like this when you hear something untrue about what you’re selling. But remember—people buy from reps they respect, trust, and enjoy working with.
So instead, understand that your competition just lobbed a toxic softball right over the plate. Here’s how you take full advantage:
- Keep it classy. Your buyer is probably expecting an emotional reaction when they share your competition’s negativity. Remaining calm, collected and nonchalant (i.e. doing the unexpected) will actually trigger your buyer in a very positive, memorable way.
- Legitimize and level set. Nothing will surprise your buyer more than actually accepting your competitor. Try something like, “That’s surprising to hear because company X is actually a good company. But to be clear, what they have told you is simply not true.”
- Focus on your unique value. Your buyer is talking to you for a reason—remind them. Try, “I never really even bring up our competition. They have strengths and weaknesses but that’s for them to discuss. I like to focus on why we’re your best bet.”
- Call in the cavalry. Executives at great companies should have no problem joining the conversation to debunk a lie. Their candor, their broad company and market purview, and even their simple willingness to join the debate is a great way of demonstrating the trustworthiness and quality of your company.
While at first glance it feels unfortunate that some companies and salespeople feel the need to misrepresent others in a competitive situation, I’ve found for the most part, across thousands of sales engagements, that it usually creates opportunity. People simply do not like negativity, especially when as buyers they’re being asked to sink an enormous amount of trust (and money) into a partnership.
There’s one last thing though…the REALLY good news. When a company starts displaying a pattern of mud-slinging, it’s often a sign of desperation. Maybe their product has fallen behind, maybe you’re consistently winning sales engagements, maybe they’re struggling to compete. Whatever the reason, feel good about taking the high road, and know that if your competition shows a pattern of misleading behavior, you’ve probably already won.