How to Answer the Question:  What makes you better than your competition?

Posted by Adam Hoffarber on 1/29/19 10:00 AM
Adam Hoffarber
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Without ever, ever trashing your competition

You’ve been wooing this prospect for weeks.

In that time, you’ve done everything right:

You’ve done your homework. You’ve sent thoughtful, engaging emails. You’ve answered every question with compelling facts about your capabilities, your track record, and your keen interest in working together.

But then, just as you’re rounding the final corner, with the finish line -- and a signed contract -- in sight, the buyer has one more little question for you:

“We’ve also been talking to [insert your competition’s name here] and they’ve been very impressive. Why should we choose you?”

That's no little question.

That's a trap...

You’re an industry insider. You know a thing or two about this competitor company. You know their weak spots. Maybe you even know a few ugly little stories that get thrown around from time to time by their former clients…

As tempting as it can be to list every single one of your competitor’s faults, 


Here are 3 Reasons You Should Never Go There:

1: Trust… GONE. 

You spent all that time convincing your prospect that you’re professional, trust worthy, the best possible partner they could choose. The minute you stoop to bad-mouthing anyone, you undo all that effort. Suddenly, you’re the person who’s not above using insults, innuendo, or gossip to get what you want. The reputation you’ve worked so hard to establish is damaged, if not completely destroyed. Rest assured that this prospect is asking the same question of every finalist – and they wouldn’t be finalists unless they had the essential capabilities in place. It’s a character question.  Answer it with integrity or you fail the test. 


2: it's legally dangerous.

What happens when word gets back to your competition? What happens if, it turns out, the statements you’ve been making about them to their prospects aren’t entirely accurate? What if your comments cause them to lose business or suffer reputational damage? What if they claim that's the case?

I’ll bet you know the answer… but let me spell it out. You can get sued.  And to put it all into more granular detail: the perils of getting sued are not just about whether you “win in court” or not. Getting sued is a long term, painful entanglement that robs you of time, effort, energy, bags and bags of money, and peace of mind.  Even if you do, eventually, “win in court,” you’ve lost everything above plus your sterling reputation in your industry. 

3: You Have Better Options.  Use them.

The next time a prospect asks you why they should work with you instead of X or Y or Z, be ready with these three not-so-secret weapons:

  • Demonstrate your understanding of this buyer's needs.
    Did you do your homework? Did you ask the right questions? Are you really equipped to understand their pain points and address their needs? If you are, this is the time to prove it.
  • Know your company’s value proposition.
    Tie that value proposition to the prospect’s needs. Keep the focus on the benefits you’ll bring them, the unique strengths you offer, and your enthusiasm for helping them achieve their goals.
  • Demonstrate your enthusiasm for the partnership.
    You’re trying to build a relationship. So, prove that you’re interested in their mission, sympathetic to their challenges, and capable of helping them meet their goals.

Even if your prospect opens the door, complaining loudly and convincingly about one of your competitors, don’t go there.

Listen.  Empathize. But never pile on.

The only exception to this rule is the very rare case when you are aware of specific, factual information that you feel morally obligated to share. Even then, never stray from factual information.  Encourage the prospect to do their due diligence and offer simple, honest evidence of your own superior ability to meet their needs.

More than anything, this is about you and your Integrity.  

I’ve pointed out the very practical reasons you should never disparage your competition to a prospect or client. I’ve shared some tips on what you can do instead.  But honestly, there’s a deeper, far more important reason to never, ever give in to the temptation to sling mud at a competitor.

It all comes down to what you want to see when you look in the mirror every morning.

If that sounds quaint or corny, I understand. We’re living in times when cynicism seems omnipresent and the simplest expectations of honor can feel like a distant dream. But the best way to surround yourself with honest brokers is be one, yourself, unfailingly. That one little rule is the surest path I've found to rewarding, long-lasting partnerships. 

Are you looking for that perfect opportunity to shine in your next interview?

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