How to Professionally Poison The Well

Speaking poorly about your competitors is poor form. It can make you look petty, jealous, and; as if you are trying to build yourself up by tearing them down. That said, you do need to be able to differentiate yourself and your offering from your competitor’s.

One way to do this is to speak highly of your competitors as individuals and companies, and attack their business model instead (I mean “business model” in the broadest sense here). The fact of the matter is, your competitors are doing good work or they wouldn’t have the clients they have, and a lot of the people that work there are smart, hardworking people. It’s also true that they do things differently, and those differences are not insignificant.

The best time to inform your prospective client that your price is higher is as early in the process as possible. It’s also the best time to educate your dream client as to why your price is higher, how it results in better results, how it results in a lower cost, and why you have made different choices from your competitors.

This is how you ensure every competitor with a lower price is recognized as requiring your prospective client to make concessions, or poison the well.

  • If your prospect invests less in areas important to producing the results your dream client needs, explain that many people in your industry (not naming names) make much lower investments in these areas so they can provide the lower price. Then explain why those investments are important, and how a lower investment puts their results at risk.
  • You also explain that you do some things differently than your competitors. If there are things that you do that are necessary to producing better outcomes, you need to explain what they are and why you go to the extra effort. Then you have to explain that other companies make different choices and that you have discovered that choices require concessions that your clients are unwilling to make. This is why you do things; it is what is truly necessary.

As you share these ideas, you are providing your prospective client with an understanding of their choices, and the questions they are going to ask your lower priced competitors. You are also establishing yourself as differentiated, better, and worth paying more to obtain. The time to establish this is early, and the longer you wait to do so, the less effective this approach will be.

You may not win this game every time. But you will win more often, and you will sell at margins that allow you to deliver the outcomes you sell.

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