All marketplaces have slimy competitors. In the short term, they may have an advantage. But over the long term, their scummy tactics almost always backfire.

Doubt my words? Here’s a true case in point: Producer/Advisor Sales Services (we’ve changed the company’s name) was launched this past spring to provide services to financial advisors and their prospective clients. It started by building a huge database of financial providers. Next it deployed this database on a site designed to help consumers learn more about individual advisors. When consumers requested information, a PASS representative would contact the advisor and request a fee for giving the prospect the information as well as an annual membership charge.

The dirty deed

Now here comes the slime. If the advisor refused to pay, PASS accused the advisor of not being committed to full transparency. They then threatened to warn the consumer in writing that this could be indicative of something serious hiding in their background. If the advisor still refused, a firm representative made good on the threat. In its sales conversations, the firm also spread lies about competitors.

One advisor immediately filed a formal complaint with his state attorney general alleging extortion by “strong-arm” tactics. Then one of the leading trade publications ran a stinging expos? of PASS sales practices.

PASS zeroed in on the advisor’s most precious asset: his reputation. However, by threatening to slime that asset, it unwittingly triggered wrath among those it most wanted to attract.

The damage done

The company did its best to respond to the charges, but the damage was done. The expos? will no doubt replicate virally on the Internet like scum on a fetid pond. Result: the new firm’s reputation has been critically tarnished.

So what’s the lesson here? Any high-pressure sales ploys, pretense promotions, scare tactics, broad misstatements, slander and its actionable cousin, libel, have a way of blackening one’s image. Avoid competitor bashing and prospect coercion at all costs. No matter what your competitors throw at you, always:

  • Stay positive. Acknowledge your competitor’s strengths and refuse to get drawn into any mudslinging.
  • Stay accurate. Make comparisons with competitors based only on fact not innuendo or falsehoods.
  • Stay objective. Never warn a prospect about doing business with a competitor. Use appeals to reason in your sales approach not fear mongering.