I’ve recently witnessed a resurgence within our industry of knocking the competition – I’ll not mention any names, but unfortunately many companies are still guilty of breeding this culture within their organization – both the startups and the established companies.
It is acceptable to be passionate about your company, your colleagues, your product(s), etc. It is acceptable to have self-belief and to be able to back up any claims, preferably with customer case studies (a hot button of mine!) But it is not acceptable to bash the competition in the vain hope that you and your company/product will come out on top.
I’ve listed below some guidelines that I not only try to operate by but which I advise my clients to adopt also:
- I’m a strong advocate of using the term comparative, versus competitive. Competitive immediately conjures up negativity and is a combative term. Whereas comparative is a much more positive term when referring to other companies/products that are available in the space in which you operate. Therefore, I always advise to produce a “comparative matrix” versus a “competitive matrix” to distinguish between your product feature set and another solution in the market
- Always uphold your own integrity; do not succumb to any type of insidious corporate culture of competition bashing. It is all too easy to get swallowed up in the internal hype and mantras, try to remain objective versus subjective in these situations
- What happens to those that ‘jump ship’? I’ve seen many peeps join their main rival and attempt to sell to the same customer they’d previously sold to. Only those that do NOT knock the competition can operate in that mode
- Always maintain the high ground. Even if asked to provide feedback on your competitors it is best to maintain focus on YOUR core strengths.
A story I’d like to share is one that demonstrates a way in which to handle corporate pressure in these situations. A colleague of mine left Company X and joined Company Y. Company Y was the under dog and had hired this individual based on his knowledge of the sector and customer base. He was instructed to target all users of Company X’s products to offer them incentives to change to his new company’s offering. He informed his new employer that as he’d sold a majority of the ELA’s to that customer base, he’d be making a mockery of himself and his integrity to offer them an incentive to convert. Why would they trust him now? However, he was aware that some ELAs would be coming up for renewal. What better way to start a conversation with “You’ve been using great technology thus far, but now there is an alternative I’d like to talk to you about?”
None of this is rocket science, just a bit of common sense really, but when you’re riding the wave and the goal is always to win, you can sometimes lose sight of the reality and get swept along with the internal hype.
As I used to preach to my children when they were younger, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Today we work in a society that is very social media driven and led, and it is very hard to convey intonation on Twitter, for example. So do be careful what you say, and how you say it. Passion is always acceptable in my book – arrogance, on the other hand, never is.