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  • Brian Burns

Does Negative Selling Against Your Competitors Work?



So your dream prospect is currently locked into a contract with your competitor and your first instinct is to bad mouth their current partner by pointing out their flaws and inadequacies. You think maybe if you show them why your competitor sucks it will open the prospect’s eyes and help them see the light that is your product or service.


If you’re new to the world of sales, this technique is called “negative selling” and should be avoided at all costs. Here’s why...

Looking Small in the Eyes of The Prospect

While you may consider your competitor to be an awful fit for your prospect, this doesn’t mean they will agree with you. By attacking your competitor, you actually make yourself look smaller while compelling the prospect to defend their current provider. This, in turn, makes whatever you’re selling a moot point.


Instead, you should focus solely on what makes your product or service valuable when speaking with your prospect. Of course, if the prospect asks “why are you better than my current partner?” you can answer honestly; however, stick to the facts without exaggerating for the sake of making your competitors look bad. It’s a misguided method that simply won’t work.


Negativity Never Works

When it comes to selling effectively, the negativity of any kind should never be a part of your strategy. This includes talking smack about your competition. In fact, you’re better off complimenting your competitor, while discussing the aspects that make you and your company different. Perhaps your beliefs differ when it comes to a certain aspect related to the prospect’s industry. Or, maybe the solution you offer has different capabilities or applications.

Regardless, the goal is to be a beacon of positivity when speaking to your prospects (without overdoing it, of course). This causes the prospect to associate you -- and your product or service -- with positive energy, and plays into the psychology of closing a deal.


Being a Trusted Advisor

As I mentioned before, if a prospect happens to ask you to share your thoughts on a competitor, you should feel free to give an honest assessment. In this scenario, your goal is to become a trusted advisor, while inserting your product or service in the back of the prospect’s mind.

With that being said, if you go into the conversation with a laundry list of your competitor’s flaws, you’re bound to come across fallacious and unfit to provide an honest opinion. This could cause your prospect to lose trust in you and lose interest in the relationship going forward. Instead, always be honest and complimentary (when necessary) without throwing the competition under the bus.


When discussing a competitor, there’s a fine line salesperson must tow in order to avoid negative selling. If you’ve been guilty of this mudslinging sales tactic, then I suggest you reevaluate your strategy and approach. As someone who has been in sales for over 25 years, I’ve had to learn the hard way when it comes to approaching prospects properly. If you need more guidance or want to gain expert insight into the world of B2B sales, I suggest checking out my no BS podcast The Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling.

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