“That man is a liar!” “That person is a cheat!” “She is incompetent and ugly, to boot!”
As we gear up for any election, we hear a lot of trash-talking from both sides (all sides?) about the opponents. It gets really tiresome, doesn’t it? Have you ordered your DVR so you can fast forward through all the commercials? “Why can’t you just present the issues??? Tell me why I should vote for YOU!”
“This would be a great business if it weren’t for the competition!”
Truer words were never written (by Dave Kahl, American Salesman, December 2007). Unless your business is in an extremely niche market, you have competition, and perhaps a lot of it. As the population of the world increases, you have more and more competition. All of them are just as hungry, just as passionate as you are. They each think their company is the best (or what would be the point?). They will do some things differently, and some of their moves will be right out of your playbook. Where is that playbook, anyway?
Some business people think the trick to making themselves and their business look good is to make the competition look bad, so they start criticizing. I have been guilty of this in the distant past, and I blush to think of it. I vowed never to do it again.
I take a potential customer’s complaint about a company quietly, and with a grain of salt, because sometimes it’s not the competition that’s the problem. It could be something as simple as a personality clash or misunderstanding, and nothing more. I almost never pass the information on to others, although I have called a competitor once or twice and said, “This is what I’m hearing people say about you.” Give them a chance to address it themselves.
Don’t tell me what your competitor is doing wrong
Ira Kalb, of CBS Money Watch writes, “Good marketers are market or customer-driven. They know that disparaging competitors…
- Makes you look unprofessional.
- Does not give buyers reasons to buy your product.
- Puts down the customers of competitors, and causes them to steer their friends and followers away from you.
- Makes you look arrogant and insecure at the same time
- Puts a target on your back if your product does not match up.”
Tell me what you can do for me
Do you believe in your product or service? Why? What is so special about it? Sit down in front of a pad of paper or jot some notes into Word. That’s the basis of your sales pitch. Know your company and your product or service inside and out. Come up with your elevator pitch Who are you? What you do? Be ready to give your pitch in the time it takes to share an elevator ride with someone.
If you want to privately differentiate yourself from your competition, great. That’s Marketing 101. Do a SWOT (pronounced “swaht”) analysis about your company and your business. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This is going to require some homework on your part, especially if you have a lot of competitors. I’ll talk about this in another post.
You scratch my back, I scratch yours
I live and work in the largest county in the contiguous US, but my town is pretty small. Not Mayberry-small, but small enough.
One day I sat in the al fresco area of a local café, looking up and down our little Main-type Street. Since I’m a graphic designer and web developer, I thought about the design and web needs of every single business just on that street. There would be no way I could service them ALL on my own.
The people in my field and related fields in my region and outlying regions also make kind of a small city. We have different skillsets, different talents, different interests. And people talk.
If I trash-talk my competitor, and they need my skills for a project, or they need to refer a potential client because they’re slammed with work or don’t do that kind of work, why in the world would they think of me in a positive way? If I need their skills or need to refer someone to them, how do I do that when I’ve just made a project out of disparaging them?
You never know where your clients will come from
One agency I worked with until the owner retired had a real knack for marketing, advertising, and public relations. Sometimes she got projects that needed the skillsets of some carefully selected designers. When my clients need more marketing, advertising, and PR services than I felt comfortable providing, I’d refer them to her. We worked together for several YEARS. What would be the chances of either happening if we were talking smack about each other?
If I get slammed with work and get one or two many phone calls, and I have to refer out, I refer to someone who has treated me well and who I know will treat the caller well and be able to meet their needs. The person I’m referring thinks highly of the company I’m referring AND me. Then if someone THEY know needs our services or products, they’ll recommend one or both of us.
Unhelpfulness is as bad as trash-talking
Sometimes, when I go into a store to find something specific, I can’t find what I’m looking for. I ask one of the sales associates. I can always tell the difference between the one-shot-centric salesperson, and the company-centric salesperson. The one-shot-centric at Store A says, “We don’t carry that (or we’re out of it). Sorry.” I leave feeling disappointed and frustrated.
The company-centric person (who has been trained correctly in customer service) at Store B says, “We don’t have that, but here are the names of a couple of places that might.”
Which store am I more likely to think of next time I need something? Which store am I more likely to recommend to a friend? Not store A.
Ask yourself, what do you want to accomplish with your business? Win now at all costs, and probably lose your reputation in the process? Or slow and steady wins the race? What will that do for your business in the long-term?
What if you just concentrated on being the best possible operator of your business? Find some local trade and business organizations, attend their meetings, and make some friends, while finding out what makes your competitors tick. You might even find your competitors inspire you in ways you never anticipated.
Do you need someone more interested in working for you than trash-talking the competition? Contact me and let’s strategize your success.