Tempted to Ridicule the Competition?

The Situation

As a sales rep for a ready-mix concrete company, Brad has been doing business with a construction contractor named Javier for quite a while.

Javier tells Brad that a representative from another company has offered Javier the same product he has been buying from Brad, but at a price that’s seven percent lower. Brad’s company’s policy is not to cut prices just to counter competitive offers.

Here’s part of their conversation:

Brad: I hope they guaranteed that price they’re quoting.
Javier: I’ll get it in writing, if that’s what you mean. Brad, I’ve liked working with you, but that’s quite a savings for the same quality materials.
Brad: Kind of hard to believe, isn’t it? How long will that guarantee last?
Javier: I’d be making a three-month buy, if that’s what you mean.
Brad: Then, watch what happens. I’ve seen it before. Also, what about delivery? They have fewer trucks, and I hear they break down a lot. When you put in a big order, you’ll have workers standing around with nothing to do.
Javier: Brad, I wasn’t born yesterday. I’ve checked out these people.
Brad: Well, your head’s in the clouds now, but I hope you won’t be sorry.

Knocking the Competition?

In general, Brad believes in Q4 solution-based selling. However, he wants to push hard to keep this customer. Is there room in Q4 to point out a competitor’s deficiencies? How should Brad handle this development?

Where’s the Customer Focus?

Q4 selling is assertive and works hard to retain customers. And that’s the weakness of Brad’s response — he isn’t focusing on his customer. Instead, Brad tears down a competitor, discussing the other company in a derogatory Q1 way. He should be helping Javier see the benefits of continuing their relationship, using logic and comparative analysis.


When Brad belittles a company that Javier has chosen, he’s belittling Javier’s judgment. (“I hope you won’t be sorry.”) Brad should instead help Javier come to his own conclusions about the other company by reviewing the total sales-delivery process and pointing out the value-added service Brad’s company provides. He might remind Javier of times Brad has filled emergency requests or was patient about an overdue payment, etc.


Does Price Trump Everything Else?

Maybe not. Brad could make Javier think twice about price alone by reviewing all the benefits he offers. Also, Javier may have gotten a competitive bid simply as a tactic to test whether Brad will lower his price. He may have no thought of actually leaving Brad’s company because he really does appreciate all the benefits of working with Brad.


However, if price really is the deal-breaker for Javier, maybe Brad can work out a lower price in exchange for a long-term commitment from Javier.


Even if Javier leaves, he may decide it was a mistake to switch and want to come back to Brad down the road. But if Brad makes Javier look foolish in this conversation, Javier could decide later to shop a third concrete source rather than returning to Brad with his tail between his legs.


Play to Your Strengths

Don’t be tempted to talk trash about competitors in order to retain a customer. Make Q4 sensible, objective comparisons, and show the benefits of buying from you.