The sooner you figure out that bad mouthing your competitors only makes you look bad, the more business you'll find yourself closing.
Interviews are always … interesting. No matter how well-prepared you are, there's no guessing the kinds of questions a prospective client might have for you. All you can do is answer those questions as best you can and focus on making the right impression by being professional, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic.
A smart business owner will be up-front with you about how many of your competitors they're considering, and share information about what they have to offer. Services packages, price points, and add-ons can often be the only real difference between you and everyone else the prospect has met with, and they want to see if you can do better. This is the point in the conversation where you can either win them over, or lose your prospective client's interest altogether.
For whatever reason, when your competition is mentioned, the instinctive response is to begin to point out their flaws or shortcomings while boasting about your own superior services or products. You might think you're shining a light on the best aspects of your business and team, but in reality? All you're really doing is making your prospect reconsider their interest in you.
Think of it this way. If you were to walk into a Ford dealership to test drive a new F150 and the salesperson, instead of telling you about the truck's features and options, starts talking to you about all of the ways a Chevy Silverado or Dodge RAM fail to measure up to what Ford can offer, you're going to start second-guessing your decision. If the best sales pitch they've got is pointing out how crappy the other brands are, it doesn't say much for Ford, does it?
That same principal applies to any other product or service. Even if you avoid being rude or petty in your critiques, you're still not doing yourself any favors. You might think you're just stating facts, but that's not how your interviewer sees it.
Of course, this doesn't mean you need to shower your competitors with compliments. Just by acknowledging that they are all great companies in their own right shows a level of respect that can set you apart from other businesses the prospect has spoken with. A little professional courtesy not only shows that you're someone a prospect can trust to approach your work for them with integrity, it shows that you are confident enough in your team and your services to let them sell themselves.
Let Your Products And Services Speak For Themselves
Prospective clients want to hear about YOU. What can you do to help them solve problems, reach goals, and grow their business? What is unique about your approach to your industry? What makes you the right fit for their business? Why would they want to work with you instead of a competitor?
If your interviewer mentions a specific challenge that has them looking for your type of services, tell them how you would handle it. Stay away from responses like "a typical company would" or "X company would probably tell you this, but" and instead offer an honest answer. You're there to showcase what your team can do, so make sure you're doing just that.
However, don't forget that it's not just about highlighting your strengths.
Honesty Is Every Bit As Important As Integrity
Don't oversell your abilities to land a contract you will struggle to fulfill, or promise results you can't deliver. Missing out on one client is better in the long run than losing a client due to poor service. Admitting that you don't think you're a good fit for what they need might not feel great at the time. However, remember that you’re risking that they may have a disappointing experience working with you and this could lead to losing other business. This is a serious gamble. That kind of damage to your reputation is hard to overcome - word of mouth is a powerful thing.
Think about how unimpressed you would be if you hired someone to do work for your business or help you manage part of your operations, only to find out months later that they'd oversold their abilities and resources. You still need someone doing the work they said they could do, and the end result is likely going to be an expensive mess that you now have to figure out how to deal with.
Don't lose sight of the fact that while you're there representing your business and speaking to someone who is representing their business, at the end of the day it's still about people. Your people, their people, and the people they want you to help them serve and support. Respect that fact, and there is no telling how far you can go in your chosen industry.
Looking for more ways to focus on the human side of doing business? These articles can help.