Spear — Don’t Smear — the Competition

By Heather Baldwin

It’s the question you’ve been dreading. An audience member observes that your competition has been in business 20 years longer than your company. Because they obviously have more experience, shouldn’t your prospect buy from them? You know the competitor has been doing business the same old way for those extra 20 years, and that it is a paper-based behemoth in a high-tech, paperless world. But you can’t tell that to your audience. How do you address the question without smearing the competition?

Simple, says Karen Friedman, a media and presentation trainer and president of Karen Friedman Enterprises (www.karenfriedman.com). Just acknowledge, address and bridge, or transition, back to your message. It’s a three-step process. First, acknowledge the question. In this case, you might say: Yes, it’s true the competition has been in business since 1969 and my company was founded in 1989. Next, address the concern. For example, you might assuage the prospect’s concern about experience by noting the experience of your own key people or listing some of your high-profile clients. Finally, bridge back to your message with something such as: What you might find interesting is that in our 13 years in business, we’ve saved each of our customers an average of $1.5 million by automating their warehousing processes. If you can sneak in a sentence about the fact that your competition has a good product and you respect their work, so much the better. A brief compliment will make you look even better.

Remember, says Friedman, “Spend as little time as possible on the competition, then bridge right back to your message. Your presentation is about what your product or service can do for your customer, not about what the competition can or cannot do. Whatever you do say about your competition, never, never, never disparage the competition because that makes you look unprofessional and leaves your audience with a bad impression of you. Instead, “really examine your strengths and play those up,” Friedman advises. “You might get questions about the competition, but acknowledge, address and bridge back to your product. Don’t ignore it, but get right back to your message.”