For each salesperson, here’s a familiar scene: Imagine you’re making a presentation and you feel pressure to make the sale. Suddenly you’re asked about your competition.

“What should I do?” you nervously ask yourself. “I’ve worked hard to get to this point and I have to make this sale,” you’re thinking.

Well, after having been in this situation as a young salesperson back when Richard Nixon was president and more recently as a business-performance consultant, I agree it’s tempting to trash your competitors.

But the temporary satisfaction from bad mouthing competitors is, in a sense, giving away your power – for you personally and for your brand.

The pay-off isn’t pleasant. You must maintain your credibility.

True, in some cases the customer will buy. However, in dealing with the most-prestigious clients, it results in a loss of respect and a lost sale.

Opportunity to shine

My sense has always been that being asked to comment on a competitor is an opportunity to shine in a positive way. My mindset was that I had no competitors.

It’s never OK to dirty your hands.

So, I responded as if the prospect was a reporter asking me a question about my competition. I remembered to act as if my answer would appear in a newspaper headline. That last thing I wanted was to be accused of being defensive and petty about my competitors.

Therefore, my typical reaction: “Company X is a fine company!”  Or “It’s a big company!” Note the exclamation point. I made it clear that I was being assertive and honest in answering the question. (I was determined to use effective strategies to outsell big competitors.)

Then, I’d share any positive news articles about my company and segue into my value proposition. Next, I’d inquire about the concerns of my prospect to which I’d respond with specific features/benefit statements.

… the temporary satisfaction from bad mouthing competitors is, in a sense, giving away your power…

Certainly, it isn’t unethical to draw a comparison between your company and your competitors. Many companies will show a prospective client a comparison chart. Perhaps it’s OK for small ticket items, but not in pursuing high-value clients.

In case there’d be a sales presentation in which the prospect related negative comments about my firm from competitors, I was ready with value propositions.

Client concerns

My firm’s target audience has always been executives – people who could authorize or sign checks. Their salient concern is always to save time and money while increasing revenue.

With them it’s important to take the high road. Therefore, in the event a competitor trash talks you, a quick value proposition changes the conversation, and the prospect realizes that the person’s comment was unprofessional.

When people make unprofessional comments, it comes out of frustration. They’re desperate and needy. The last thing I’ve ever wanted clients to think was that I needed their money.

My mindset: “I might want their money, but I don’t need it.”

Always remember the prospect mentions negative comments by others because the person is looking for reasons to buy from you. You must validate those reasons to stand out from the crowd.

Treat sales calls like a question-and-answer dialogue with a lawyer in a courtroom. Always answer questions honestly and never say more than need-be.

Trash talking is inappropriate. You must respond with your value-proposition and then smoothly transition the dialogue to a discussion about your features and benefits.

Whenever you get a compliment from a client, ask for the names of a couple of people who would also like the value you’re providing.

Sales pipeline

Keep your brand strong with customer and client retention policies to keep your pipeline full for continuous sales.

Plus, remember that referrals are a lucrative source of revenue. Continue to focus on your existing clients. Whenever you get a compliment from a client, ask for the names of a couple of people who would also like the value you’re providing.

While you’re at it, make the most from testimonials.

Something else to remember: Prospects want to be safe and secure in their buying decisions.

Buying decisions are based on emotion. Often, it’s when prospects have a problem. You must empathize but explain you’ve “seen the movie many times” and you know the solutions.

Further, if you have a sales team, make sure your employees know bad mouthing competitors is not one of the attributes of the best salespeople.

Arm them with the right tools: Professional selling skills, awareness of the value perceptions that motivate customers to buy, and how to overcome sales objections.

And make sure your branding stays strong.

From the Coach’s Corner, more reading:

In Digital-Age, Upgrade Sales Skills to Sell to Executives — E-commerce is increasingly popular. But in B2B sales, research shows a salesperson’s skills are paramount when the buyer is an executive. So to maximize your revenue, make sure your salespeople are prepared with advanced sales training.

Elevate Sales via 5 Best Practices in Pricing and HR Training — Sophistication in pricing by salespeople is an excellent driver to grow earnings rather than just looking for ways to cut costs. Instead of growing their profits with sophistication in pricing, many businesspeople miss growth opportunities.

Big Ticket Sales – Prevent Buyer’s Remorse with 4 Precautions — In big-ticket sales — from consulting services to information technology — customer emotions run high. Buyer’s remorse will cost you a big sale. To prevent buyer’s remorse, you need to be a calming influence in order for the customer to understand you’re providing value.

6 Tips to Create New Sales with Successful Cold Calling — For most businesspeople in a lackluster economy, it’s important to create new opportunities with successful cold calling.

5 Critical Fundamentals to Build the Best Sales Staff — Some companies are achieving stellar sales results in complex global situations by adopting best practices. They employ strategies that separate them from the average-performing sales organizations.

“In sales, it’s not what you say; it’s how they perceive what you say.”

-Jeffrey Gitomer


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.