Is Bashing the Competition Really the Worst Thing a Salesperson Can Do?

July 29, 2013

Is Bashing the Competition Really the Worst Thing a Salesperson Can Do?

The Worst Thing a Salesperson Can Do: Part II

Last year, OpenView Labs featured a video from sales expert Dave Brock discussing why it is a bad sales strategy to bash a competitor in order to make a sales pitch. We had a spirited conversation in the comments section, with many pointing to Samsung’s latest commercials bashing Apple as a mainstream example of where bashing the competition works.
There are two sides to this argument:


Bashing the Competition Gives You Traction and a Comparison Point

If you are an emerging company and need to get traction you will need to compare your product to the competition. It’s a commonly used theme in the auto industry: Take your car and prove how it’s better than the industry benchmark. Hyundai has used this approach to great success in marketing themselves as a lower cost but equal quality alternative to Toyota and Honda.
Head-to-head comparisons are common on a lot of manufacturer sites — they often even let the user select whichever competitor offerings they want to. But they are very factual and don’t pass judgment on the alternatives. They just provide specifications and highlight where their car is superior.
Of course, the manner in which a salesperson bashes a competitor is key. If it’s antagonistic you risk offending the prospect. If you do it respectfully, pointing out how your product sets a better standard, then it invites a constructive dialogue to undertake with a prospect.


An Alternative Method: Sell Your Product

A good case study is Mercedes-Benz. If you go to one of their dealerships they will put on a clinic on how to present the strengths of their product without focusing on the competition. They conduct a “walkthrough,” taking the prospect on a guided tour of the vehicle, pointing to exclusive or “best in class” features that distinguish them from others. But they don’t mention the competition at all. They simply focus on what makes their products great. If someone brings up a competitor they address the point factually and invite a constructive discussion on why Mercedes is better.
A case in point, if someone mentions Mercedes’ somewhat notorious reliability compared to Lexus, they’ll respond, “Well, all cars have problems.” In essence they admit the problem, but don’t admit there is a significant difference when it comes to reliability.
If you have to denigrate the competition to sell your product, in essence you’re admitting your product is lacking in some way.

So Which Way is Best?

It’s easy to for me to sit here and write what approach I “think” is best. Of course, the salespeople out there know what works for them. The pitfalls of bashing the competition are clear, but each product, industry, and client have different approaches that are effective for them.
While the Samsung vs. Apple commercials have generated a lot of buzz, we should keep in mind that’s the B2C world. In the B2B space, you’re dealing with a more informed prospect, someone who has done their homework on finding a solution that meets their needs. They’re looking at objectives and are answerable to their stakeholders.
If you need to establish your product’s superiority, try the Mercedes approach first. It’s fair game to use a competitor to delve into a constructive debate over your products merits. However, if you go in with a chip on your shoulder, you risk undermining your sales pitch.

Which side do you agree with when it comes to bashing your competitors?


Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations

Sudip is in charge of Corporate Strategy, Sales Operations at <a href="">Alegeus Technologies</a>. Previously, he worked at OpenView from 2012 until 2014 with portfolio companies to provide insights on the markets they operate in, their customers, and drive development of business strategies.