Question: The other day I was making a purchase and I asked the salesperson about another product sold by one of his competitors. He was very disparaging about this competitor. How should talk about a competitor be handled?
Answer: I have come to the point of believing that only if we have competition will we be better. This is true in business and in life in general. Everyone wants to win but does beating up a competitor when talking to a customer really put us in a winning mode and make us better?
When a salesperson makes derogatory comments about another company or its products that indicates that he or she isn’t confident enough in his or her own company’s product to help the customer buy it. Instead, the salesperson must resort to tearing down the other company and its product. I’ve been in this situation many times as a customer. And I can tell you that my reaction was not positive. In fact it is such a turnoff that I may not even purchase the product that the offending salesperson is trying to sell.
If you are an entrepreneur, how do you feel when you read or hear about one of your competitors landing a big contract or succeeding in some other way? Are you angry or are you happy for them? How do you view your competitors? Are they the “enemy” to be beaten into submission? For me, life is too short to constantly be engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the competition. I choose to see people trying to earn a living or even live a passion. I see people working hard to perfect their product or service. Those who view competition and competitors in an adversarial manner also see the world as a zero-sum game. They define the market as finite and believe that success for a competitor means that they are losing something that otherwise might have been theirs. With few exceptions this is a not a pathway to success.
A different mindset could produce much better results. Ray Kroc, founder of the McDonald’s restaurant chain is quoted as saying, “If any of my competitors were drowning, I’d stick a hose in their mouth.” Rather than focus on and react to the competition, it’s much better to focus on the way we serve our customers; develop new and innovative ways to improve our products and services, and improve the way we operate our businesses. We embrace competition to push us to do better and be better. We learn from the things our competitors do better. And we also observe their weaknesses and use this knowledge to avoid the same mistakes.
Healthy competition can be transformed into cooperation and collaboration. When this happens we experience a state of co-opetition. Everyone wins when this state is reached.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.