Don’t Badmouth Competitors – How to Sell Positively

by Jun 30, 2020Operations Leadership

Since the probability you have a product/service that has no competition is a rare as hen’s teeth, competitive selling is the reality of the seller’s day. A great investor once told me one thinking they have no competition shows their naivete. You are always competing for attention, a slice of the budget, implementation time, or another limited resource. 
The better the product, the greater the need, the more direct and indirect competition we have. How you handle competition messages if you are a rookie or a pro. Yet the temptation to speak negatively of those you are measured is human nature, just as it is bad for your business. How can we approach the situation better?

Nobody likes Negative Nelly!

We love doing business with people we like. In our daily communication, we hear negativity too often. Please don’t add to it. Be the delightful part of the day in your future customer’s life. Keep it positive! The highest producing salespeople I have worked with would discuss how competitors chose to approach something and why we chose to take a different route. That is one great way to show your deep knowledge and expertise!

Trash-talking is a sign of weakness and fear

Consciously or subconsciously, we perceive people who talk bad about their competitors as fearful and weak. Don’t detract from the product your team worked so hard to build. Positivity conveys confidence.

Prospect may be looking for a change, help them move forward

It is unusual to sell to the prospect who may be unhappy with what they have bought and want to change the situation. It could be buyer’s remorse, resentment of the mistake, change in needs, or a relationship gone sour. Listen and reframe into a positive path forward. Maybe your competitor’s product was the right choice for the situation your buyer thought he/she had at the time. Find out what has changed and make sure we are the right solution for the new need.


Now that we have established the mindset, here is a better way to handle the most common questions/situations:

How does our product compare?

Assuming we have listened well and know the prospect’s needs, this is the golden opportunity to share how your product team approached the solution and why a different approach was the right one. You are not attacking a competitor’s solution; you are giving light to different thinking of your team. The temptation to stray into negativity may be strong. Overcome it! This is the opportunity to discuss “the moat” and why the solution you are selling is uniquely positioned. How many times you will end up the winner of the deal will surprise you. Being the seller-educator is a powerful position because when you make prospects smarter, they will naturally gravitate to buying from you.

Why are you more expensive than a competitor?

This is a perfect opportunity to signal premium value. Share what makes you think your product is worth what it is. Unless there are huge glaring differences (like comparing Ford to Ferrari), ignore the competitor comparison part and focus on your value. Prospect has the need and budget, and you (may) have a solution that will give them a better outcome or return on investment. That is worth premium pricing.

Why does your competitor have feature X, but you don’t?

While this question sounds about the same as comparing products in general, what prospect is signaling here is a need for deeper education. This is a perfect opportunity to pull in someone from sales engineering or product to help educate the prospect. Share the logic, share the inspiration for it, share how you think you have taken care of it. Your competitors? They chose to look at the problem differently. Sometimes you are the right answer; sometimes your competitor has the one – help your prospect make an educated decision. In the end, you do want a customer who is right for you. Even if you lose the deal, the product team has more insights to document and consider for the product roadmap.

Image credit: AdventureRoost

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