Trashing the competition is a mistake that people expect you to make. It’s also not a mistake worth making — not that you want to ignore competitors; if the homeowner is asking you about them, you can be fairly sure they’re asking your competitors about you, too.

So bring it up first. But don’t step in it.

Sometimes it’s hard not to get worked up when a homeowner mentions a competitor that you know uses dishonest marketing and sales tactics or whose installation practices bring on endless service calls and complaints. But slamming that company is out of the question. Leave that to the inexperienced, unrefined, untrained, or just plain stupid salesperson.

Here’s the reason: When you throw dirt, you only lose ground. Anything you say to rip a competitor ultimately comes back to you and the company you represent because we’re in the same industry. And the homeowner may already have a negative view of the industry. It might also be the case that that competitor you’re ripping into made their sales presentation to the homeowner the night before and that the prospect liked their sales guy and their product. As you trash them, you suddenly get the sense that your prospect feels insulted. How much closer are you to the sale now?

Have You Talked With Other Companies?

On the other hand, if you ignore the competition and don’t even ask about competitors, it will come back to bite you just as badly as if you pounced. Worst-case scenario: You’re on your way out the door and suddenly the homeowner says: “Oh, we’ll get back to you. We’re talking to XYZ tomorrow.”

You want to know who they’ve talked with and who they’re planning to talk with because you need to know what you’re up against. If the prospect doesn’t bring it up, ask. That can be a little tricky. If you ask if they’ve talked with other companies and they refuse to tell you or they change the subject, a barrier goes up. Bring the subject up well before closing and do it with levity. “We must be the 10th window company you’ve talked with by now, aren’t you exhausted?”

Keep It Professional

Say the prospect mentions XYZ company. They have a guy coming out, or he came out the night before. They mention this and they’re waiting for you to pounce. Instead say: “Oh, of course I know XYZ, they’ve been around for 20 years. They have a fairly good product.” Mention some positive aspects of their product. Be professional. Then say: “But I’m going to show you something else that’s better.”

If XYZ is a less than reputable operator, suggest that the homeowner might want to go to the Better Business Bureau website and check on the credentials of all the contractors he plans to speak with. Mention that your company is licensed and insured and that your installers are certified, and that the homeowner would be wise to avoid doing business with companies that cannot honestly make that claim. Build yourself up without tearing the other guy down. Subtlety and suggestion will go far here.

Say you’ve presented and you feel that your presentation was particularly strong and that you connected with the homeowner and established the value of your product. They mention that they’re still planning to see XYZ. Ask them why. They’ve probably been told they need to get a certain number of estimates. If you’ve done a great job selling your product, ask them how valuable they feel their time is and do they really want to sit through three, five, or seven more window presentations? —Tommy Steele has been selling home improvement jobs for more than 26 years in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. View his website or contact him at [email protected].