Not long ago, I built a training program for a company that included a deep-dive look at a few the company's competitors. During many hours of research, I discovered multiple instances in which these competing companies used disparaging remarks when comparing themselves to the local competition. I also discovered many comments from homeowners who were expressly unappreciative of this approach.

I’m not a believer of using negative sales tactics when dealing with the competition in front of the customer. A piece of advice my Dad often gave to me when I was younger still resonates with me today and that advice is “Don’t try to make yourself look better by making somebody else look bad.”

But even though I live by this rule, it begs the question: how do you sell yourself against your competition and not come across as negative?

Competitive Landmines
Answering this question for myself led to more research and discovery of a concept that I’d never heard of before, but that is quite popular. The concept is known as “competitive landmines.” Try Googling it and you'll find a lot about it. A landmine, of course, is a military weapon designed to be hidden and detonated to exact damage on the enemy. A competitive landmine is a thought, question or idea planted with the homeowner designed to appear during a competitor’s sales presentation, and exact damage on their ability to close.

The use of a competitive landmine could be particularly useful in those situations when a homeowner does not buy from you immediately. When you leave a potential customer’s home when getting a response of “We need to think it over” or “We are getting more quotes.” The homeowners will be making a very large and important purchasing decision with only two pieces of information available to them - the leave-behind packet you give to them and their memory of you. That’s it. In this type of situation, you and your offering will be compared to companies who were in the home before you and after you.

If you read up on this subject, you’ll uncover many examples of how a competitive landmine might work, but many of them, to me, seem manipulative. However, after some consideration, I believe the following approach could be very helpful.

It Starts with Knowing Your Competitive Advantage
First, you must know your unique, competitive advantages in the marketplace. What strengths you have over your main competitors and what needs, or problems you can solve for the homeowner by the uniqueness of your product or service. It could be product warranty, some element of your service, installation technique, energy efficiency, lead time, or some other excellence you have cultivated. Now here's how you set the land mine: Position your unique competitive advantages as something that all good companies do. Your competitors must then defend themselves to homeowners when this unique talent is brought up by the homeowner during the competitor's sales presentation. Click – Boom.

Here’s an example of how this would look in real life. Let’s say you have a window product that has a higher design pressure rating than any of your local competitors, and a homeowner who is looking for a strong, durable window. You tell the homeowner “most good companies will know the design pressure rating of their window and will be able to tell you the features of the window that allow it to get that rating.” Click – Boom!! It’s worth noting that you must be sure of your competitive advantages to use a Competitive Landmine. Otherwise, you are giving further legitimacy to your competition. If you represent a competitive advantage as something most good companies do, and the homeowner finds that two to three of the home-improvement companies they have spoken to do it, that may put some further price pressure on your offering.

Give it a try and see what happens. In addition to a leave behind packet, plant a Competitor Landmine and see if it helps differentiate you from the competition when they walk onto the battlefield, or in this case, into the homeowner’s living room.