How to Talk About Your Competition


It happens: you’re pitching a potential customer — and the customer brings up one of your competitors.

“I saw XYZ roofing doing a job down the street and I’ll be getting a bid from them as well. What do you think of them?”

You should be doing this job, not one of your competitors. Right?

So what do you say about the competition?

Here’s a suggestion:

“XYZ Roofing? Yeah, I know them. They do bad work, they smell bad, and they’re losers.”

That’s one idea.

Or you could use what scientists call “choice ambiguity.” It means that, basically, your competitors are all pretty much the same and none of them have a reason to stand out from the pack.

Using choice ambiguity, you could say:

“XYZ Roofing? I know them. There’s a bunch of roofing companies around here — and I wouldn’t really know why to choose one of them over the others. Of course, I can tell you why you should go with my company, America First Roofing.

Then you give the customer some reasons to pick you.

See what you’ve done there? You’ve grouped everybody else together. You’ve indicated that they are unremarkable and average.

And from your point of view, your competitors should be unremarkable and average. You know the ways in which your company is not average — the ways it excels and strives for greatness.

You have not diminished your own status by talking badly about your competitors. You still look classy and professional.

And you haven’t given the customer any motivation to call up other companies.

One contractor told me about a mistake he once made. When a customer asked him about another company, he said, “XYZ? Sure, I know them. They don’t know what they’re doing, and they always quote prices that are way too low.”

Well, sure enough, the customer called the other company and chose them at a lower price. Who knows how the job went? All I know is the contractor I was talking to didn’t get it.

Bottom line: Don’t bother talking about the competition. Acknowledge that other companies exist – and that they’re all pretty much the same. Your company is really the only one worth talking about — and it’s really the only one worth hiring for the job. Am I right?

The original color photo for “Other Guy” roofing was shot by Pointnshoot. The black and white photo is courtesy striatic. Thank you both.

1 Comment

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January 28, 2014 at 10:58 pm

Great perspective and so true! We will be making sure our estimators use this logical approach to this question. Thanks.

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