My younger sister once won an account and became good friends with the decision-maker she worked with day to day. Each Friday, her competitor would bring donuts to the client, and then sit around and bash our company. As soon as the competitor left, the client would bring the donuts to our staff or call my sister to come get them. They bought one of our teams donuts for months and months, all the while thinking they were making an impact.
One of my clients would routinely meet with my competitors. He’d listen to everything they had to say, much of it an attempt to create doubt about my company. He’d ask them for a proposal, and they would oblige him, believing they were close to a deal. When I visited him, he would hand me a big stack of my competitor’s proposals, including their pricing.
A competitor’s salesperson once called one of my company’s oldest clients. This client had very deep relationships with our company. The competitor told one of our client’s employees that my company was having financial difficulties, that we couldn’t meet payroll, and that they were exposed to a serious risk. When the client heard, she called to tell us what the salesperson had said, having known my company long enough to know that the salesperson was speaking out of turn. I called the salesperson’s manager, asking him to play fair, and he cussed me out. I offered a meeting to discuss how we might handle competing, and he hung up on me.
One client I frequently visited with would get calls from competitors while I was in meetings with him. He would take their calls, put them on speaker phone, and start asking them questions. He thought this very entertaining to ask them about their business, their strategy, and specifically, how they were better than my company while I was sitting in the room.
It is a mistake to believe that you can win hearts and minds by attacking your competitor. When you have no idea how strong the relationship is, you can make a complete fool of yourself, doing more harm than good, and doing nothing to create a real opportunity.
Speaking ill of your competitor is an indication of who you are, not who they are. There are better strategies available to you.
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Filed under: Relationships