Selling is Not Politics: Going Negative in Sales May Destroy Results and Reputation
Political mud-slinging attack campaigns are an approach that isn’t often found in selling. Some salespeople get fearful and defensive as soon as competition is mentioned. Others, those who usually win against the competition, know a productive approach.
Commercial ads, like Apple’s Mac versus Windows users are a humorous way to point out competitive differences. As dirty as it is, going negative seems to work in politics. But how does it work in selling? How can salespeople still manage control when competition shows up?
Washington is Like the 80AD Roman Coliseum
During the gladiator days in the Roman Coliseum a thumbs up meant kill and thumbs down mean spare him. People cheered and ranted for the kill. There was nothing personal at stake to each individual. The event was their boxing of that time. Negative in politics possibly works because of the crowd herd behavior, but it does not necessarily win over all people. It may even discourage some voters not to show up. But the herd phenomena in politics does seem to encourage the fight.
Don’t Make Selling Like a Custody Battle
How do children react to one-parent bad mouthing the other in a custody battle? Usually not well. In sales, beating up the competition is similar. Consider potential customers as children. It can slows things down and put doubts in the customer’s mind. The competition of indecision is the biggest competitor in many cases. Would you talk to your customer badly about their decision making style? Then why sell against the competition in a negative light?
How do you sell against competition then?
Be grateful for competitors
Competition is good. It’s what creates better value and allows us to learn from competition. The humor in the Apple versus Windows ads may be helping to make Microsoft a better company. The competitions weaknesses can be your strengths that you can talk about.
Don’t be reluctant to talk about competition
Acknowledge to yourself that you have competition. Know their strengths and weaknesses. If you do mention them, do it early on and in a positive or humorous light. Keep things short and light and you may show your own confidence. Then get right back on track to talk about your company, your products, your services. That is what you are talking with the customer about buying! Better yet, ask a question that puts the focus back on the customer.
Don’t be reluctant to admit a weakness
Early in my selling career I remember not making the due date for the release of a software package. We turned this weakness into strength. First, we let every prospect know we would be late. What a great reason to follow up! Then we offered them an olive branch. If your company or product has a weakness just take it head on. If your competition has a weakness, then head off in the direction of focusing on your strength.
Rather than consider talking badly about your competition, or even referring to them other than an acknowledgement of something good, give a Roman Coliseum thumbs down to such talk. Spare the negative talk. Focus on you, your company, your strengths and most importantly your customer. Your customer will vote for you with their checkbook.