The Virtue of Restraint – 6 Reasons for Not Bashing the Competition

I believe that one of the key components to sales success is to resist bashing the competition.

Restraint is needed to avoid bashing  the competition

Throughout my career in software sales, I have observed many of my colleagues take an aggressive stance toward the competition when talking with customers and prospects. I’m sure many of us have encountered the slick sounding salesperson who can immediately rattle off a list of reasons why the customer can avoid doom and destruction by staying away from our competitors. While this may look and sound impressive, I have rarely seen it work out well for my colleagues, or for me. Instead, I have seen those salespeople who have a more evenhanded approach toward the competition have much more success building rapport and having an open dialogue with the customer. 

Outlined below are some of my top 6 reasons why I recommend for not bashing the competition.  

1. Bashing the competition is a waste of time

Your customer’s time is limited and you have a small window of time when you can get their attention. The best way to accomplish this is by focusing on the customer’s needs and how you can help. You will lose this focus and the customer’s attention if you concentrate on what’s wrong with the competition instead of the customer’s business needs.

2. It lowers the bar for the competition

All the competition has to do is prove you wrong on one fact and they have proved you to be liar. At the very least, the customer is far less likely to give you any credibility, even on matters that have nothing to do with the competition. However, you owe it to the customer to share information about the competition if asked. Make sure you preface it correctly though. Best to let the customer know that you have been told something (by another customer or prospect) than to present it as a fact in and of itself. This way they will know you weren’t lying or exaggerating if it turns out to be untrue or out of date information.

3. It invites the customer to check back with the competition

By focusing on your customer, you can steal their attention from your competition, whom they may never check back with. If you bash the competition, the customer will at least check back with them to validate what you told them. Now the competition is in the batter’s box and you aren’t. This can work in your favor though, when the competition bashes you. (See item #2.)

4. The customer usually knows more about the competition than you do

Use any conversations about competition as an opportunity to learn from the customer. They will often have first-hand information that they will usually share with you if you are willing to listen. Better to learn what your own company needs to do to be more competitive than to use guesswork and second-hand information to try to sway the opinion of your prospect.

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5. Bashing the competition conditions the customer to be wary of the marketplace

We all know the old saying: “When you point a finger at someone, three are pointing back at you.” The customer will expect you to prove that anything you say about the competition is not true for your company as well. This can extend the sales cycle, and time kills all deals. In extreme cases, you can convince the customer that the risks are too great and that they should reconsider the project altogether. I’m sure many of us have heard something like this: “Thank you so much for the information! We are going to hold off on doing anything for now thanks to the great information you gave us.”

6. Bashing the competition insults the customer

They may like the competition or may have already done business with them. At the very least, they thought well enough of the competition to look at them along with you. By bashing the competition, you are at the very least telling your customers that they are uninformed. At its worst, you are telling them that they are stupid. It is better instead to praise the customer for making a good decision regarding the competition. This will most likely facilitate a conversation about what they liked about them and what you need to show or do to get their business this time.