A couple of years ago a young sales professional was going door to door in our neighborhood cold-calling for a well-known pest control company. I had barely opened the door when he launched into a tirade of criticism about my current pest control provider thanks to a small sticker with their logo on my front porch. He hadn’t even introduced himself before the rant, but I had seen his company van on the street near my house and he was in a uniform (yeah nice 1st impression).
In an effort to slow him down and have him rewind, I interrupted him and introduced myself. He finally introduced himself and his company. Then he continued the verbal assault on my current provider. I held up my hand and stopped the conversation. I asked him to share with me the selling points of his company and their service. He stopped. It was obvious his selling style was all about putting down the competition. And he was very good at it. It may have been the first time after all his sales training that he was asked to actually sell his brand. Imagine such an invitation!
He couldn’t help himself. He continued to aggressively go after his competitor and I ended the conversation. I told him I wasn’t interested in services from a vendor who spent all their time telling me what was wrong with my current service provider. Lost sale! He was a “business bully.”
Bullying is familiar. The posts on social media (e.g., the FL kid who made his own TN Vols t-shirt & UT created his shirt in response) about bullying victims and positive responses is something with which we are all familiar. Celebrities, politicians, athletes, actors and more have all come forward with their stories of being bullied in life. Others have repented of their childhood bullying days and reached out as adults to help bully victims. However, we don’t hear a lot about bullies in business—it’s real and it’s dangerous.
Business bullies thrive on putting down the competition even if they can’t prove their criticism and negative attacks. Imagine getting out of your car at a local car dealership (a different manufacturer from yours) and the sales rep launches into a tirade about your current car? I’d be gone in two seconds. It’s a lousy way to sell a service, or product. It says so much about the representative and company for allowing it to continue than it does the competition.
Not long ago, a founding partner in our firm had the opportunity to slam the competition. It would have been fair, constructive criticism, but he didn’t go there! Instead, he made positive remarks about something the competitor had done then spent the next twenty minutes highlighting how our firm would approach their business without any vitriol, or rants against the competitor. It impressed me. It reminded me that the best companies rely on selling themselves and what they do best instead of putting down the competition.
Great companies don’t need to bully others. In fact, many affirm them, or find something positive to say about their work. Why?
Great companies, regardless of size, recognize that they have something of value to offer existing, or potential clients. And they realize that not everyone is going to take advantage of their product, or service. However, their focus is on making sure their products or services deliver as promised, add value and seek continual improvement.
When you spend your time putting down a competitor it says more about you than the competition. If you have a strong product, service, or track record why would you waste valuable time bullying the competition? Companies that value humility and service understand this and they don’t tolerate it for the sake of a sale, no matter how big an impact said client could make on their P&L statement. They have ethics and values they won’t compromise no matter how much money is on the table.
The next time someone is trying to sell, or pitch you on something by putting down the competition interrupt them and ask them why you should choose their company. Hopefully, they will care about your needs and offer solutions instead of forging ahead with vitriol about their competition. My paternal grandmother always counseled to, “take the high road,” and she was right!
Monty Carter is a Storyteller and Brand Strategist for WebSpeak Media in Greer, South Carolina. In addition to telling client stories he also writes on organizational culture, leadership, conflict and other business related topics.
WebSpeak Media 102 Trade Street Greer, SC
Unsplash Free images: Bully Photo by Kat J/ Dad & Daughter Photo: Photo by Federico Enni