The Challenge of a Dishonest Competitor

Oct 6, 2023 | Blog

The Challenge of a Dishonest Competitor

“Todd, I appreciate and embrace the idea of being transparent – but here’s the problem: We’re transparent. Our competitors aren’t. And, the customer doesn’t find out until it’s too late – they’ve already gone with our competitor and are already eight months into their implementation. What do we do?”

This is a question I received (from a C-Level Exec) following a keynote I gave last week. In a space where the implementations are a heavy lift, the client doesn’t often find out the truth until they’re fully sunk into the project – when turning back isn’t an option, and changing horses won’t happen for years. A lost deal stays lost. 

I could answer through the lens of karma – which will make you sleep better at night, but the fact remains…telling the truth is costing this company business. 

So let’s look through the lens of something more tangible.

The Long Game Wins the Short Game

In a way, playing the long game creates a tangible form of “karma”, defined informally as, “destiny or fate, following as effect from cause.”

When we lie to win a deal, we win that deal. We receive the revenue from that deal. 

But the cost is still there. There are costs to rebuild the trust eroded through the lie. But even more, there are costs associated with:

  • The won client is less likely to think of you for referrals or when a peer is asking for recommendations.
  • The won client is more likely to tell the story of the dishonesty to their friends, peers, or via a review.
  • The won client is less likely to invest more – via upsells or cross-sells within the organization. Or, at the very least, you can count on an extended cycle time to upsell or cross-sell.
  • The won client is likely to change companies at some point, and less likely to pick you next time.

Maybe you don’t see it – it’s hard to see something that you don’t hear or see…but it’s there, created through a failure to embrace the truth.

Picture of Alexander Revell

Alexander Revell, founder of Alexander H. Revell & Co. in 1876

In 1905, Alexander Revell (founder of Alexander H. Revell & Co. in 1876) said,

“Many otherwise honest men talk in a dishonest way merely because they think they are meeting the dishonesty of the other fellow. Make a man honest with you by being honest with him, but under no circumstances let him make you dishonest.”

Playing the long game wins the long game, and eventually the short game, too.

Transparency begets transparency

To put Revell’s quote another way, we subconsciously can’t help but be more transparent with someone who is being transparent with us. 

Four years ago, I bought a car at the local Ford dealer. I decided to be a transparent buyer…not wed to the car I was interested in, but more as an experiment. I shared the three things you aren’t supposed to tell a car salesperson:

  1. How I intended to pay: Common advice says to wait until the price is negotiated before revealing whether you intend to pay for it outright, finance the purchase through the dealer, or lease the car. I started the conversation by saying, “I’ve already worked out the finances, and intend to write a check when we’re ready.”
  2. That I had a trade-in: That same advice suggested waiting until the price of the to-be-purchased car is fully negotiated, then bring up the trade-in. My second sentence was, “Oh, and that 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee there in the parking lot is mine, and intend to trade it in.”
  3. Don’t reveal the problems with the trade-in – let them find them…or not: “And…do you see that smoke still swirling in the parking lot? That was pouring out of the back of the Jeep. The check engine light wasn’t just on…it was flashing as I pulled in.”

Why are we taught to do that? Because car salespeople can’t be trusted, so be prepared to meet their dishonesty with your own.

As it turns out, my transparency led to the salesperson (Frankie) sharing his situation with me – his problems with ADHD, his relationship with his father, and even his lack of passion for selling cars. 

Transparency begets transparency. Frankie likely couldn’t help it. I admittedly took a bit of advantage of the situation, asking him if he’d be willing to explain his compensation plan to me. He gladly obliged.  

The point? In selling situations, when we are there with a whole-hearted focus on helping the customer make a good decision, achieve optimal outcomes, and even achieve outcomes they didn’t know possible, honesty begets honesty. You’ll find that when you become a resource to the client instead of a necessary evil, the client will come to you with questions, clarifications, and the belief that you’re there for them! 

When you’re able to share, “Hey, there’s a requirement that you have that we don’t have mastered” with transparency and honesty, you’ll inspire a trusting conversation. When you’re able to be a resource to your client by saying, “Here’s a couple things our competitor truly does do better than us…things that may matter to you based on your requirements” with transparency and honesty, they’ll trust your perspective…and seek it!

On a firm foundation of trust, you won’t sound like a politician or a slimebucket when you’re able to also say, “By the way, we’ve had a couple of clients tell us that (competitor) has claimed that they have the ability to do X really well, I’d suggest taking a deeper look. That hasn’t turned out to be the whole truth…” 

With unexpected honesty – about your shortcomings, the upsides of a competitor, and the potential landmines and risks, they’ll come to you first with leanings before decisions are made, and trust your perspective one where your solution is, in fact superior, and where your competitors may be weaker…or hiding the truth. 

Losing a deal to a lying competitor has long-term value, and eventually creates significant short-term value, too.

As Arthur Dunn said in 1921 via my favorite sales quote of all time:

“A lie is a weapon of the weakling and the afraid. There is no come-back to truth – no alibi – no hereafters – no explanations. If the truth won’t sell it, don’t sell it.”

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I speak and teach revenue organizations on how to leverage transparency and decision science to maximize their revenue capacity. It’s what I do…teach sellers, their leaders, and really entire revenue organizations the how we as human beings make decisions, then how to use that knowledge for good (not evil) in their messaging (informal and formal), negotiations and revenue leadership. I wrote a 3x award-winning book (𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘺 𝘚𝘢𝘭𝘦), and have a newish book out (𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘚𝘢𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘓𝘦𝘢𝘥𝘦𝘳) now that just won its first award!

Reach out if you want to discuss The Transparency Sale sales methodology, or really…anything else (sales kickoffs, workshopskeynotes, the economy, history, etc.)! Email or call 847-999-0420.

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