We all can fall into this trap. One example of a potential talking-down situation is after someone leaves our company, goes to a competitor, and uses (steals) proprietary information/knowledge (I am not going to deal with the legal aspects of this situation; rather, I’m considering how we should deal with customers or prospective customers). Here are a couple of other examples of times we may be caught speaking negatively about a competitor: 1) We know our competitor has offered a lowball price, which they will not be able to sustain; 2) We know our competitor’s product/service is inferior to ours, but the prospective customer cannot discern the difference.
There may be a way to tastefully educate your prospect and open their eyes to any misinformation/misrepresentations, but my experience is that when you step into this dialogue, you’re usually the one who comes out looking bad. My strong advice is to focus on your prospect and your product/service, and helping them understand why you are the perfect solution. Provide examples and use customer references — especially people your customer may know in their industry.
How do you feel when someone else speaks poorly of his or her competitors? Have you ever made a sale by bad-mouthing a competitor? I would love to hear about it.