Negative Selling – Or why it pays to respect both your customers and competitors

An ex-colleague of mine, Rick Greenwald, once ran me through a presentation he created that outlined the dangers of negative selling. The theory goes that by blindly attacking your competitor’s weaknesses you not only fail to focus on your strengths, but you give the customer a reason for thinking of your competitor and, in extreme cases, create a negative impression of your company.

With that in mind, I came across AMD’s Break Free site this week and have been torn over whether it’s content is well aimed and informative, or whether it’s airing dirty laundry regarding a competitive topic that has very little to do with a customer’s buying decision.

I do understand the battle AMD is having with opaque procurement processes in Government organisations. It’s a tough battle. One that many software and hardware vendors deal with every day. Proposals and tenders often have specific functionality baked in to help exclude or minimise the impact of competitor activity by the incumbent vendor. If you know your product does something well, why not have your existing customers put that technical requirement into an RFP to make life harder for your competitors?

Obviously, government agencies need to be impartial and have a certain degree of transparency. However, having a campaign based around telling customers how Intel has been extracting revenue via monopolistic means does come across rather negatively.

It’s a discussion that needs to be had, privately with customers and governments. I dare say though, the average customer sees this negativity and vendor bashing at best, a little more than a sideshow and at worst, off putting and enough to switch buying attitudes towards other non-AMD vendors.


2 thoughts on “Negative Selling – Or why it pays to respect both your customers and competitors

  1. Dan –

    Took a quick look at the Website, and the only question I have is “Why”?, or, more properly, “Who is the audience for this site?”

    – The government and its procurement process and processors? Hmm, let’s see, you are going to get the government to change by criticizing it? Not likely – in fact, it will probably have the opposite effect.

    – Intel? ROTFL.

    – Other customers? Not sure why it makes a difference to them.

    – Internal AMD consituencies? Ah, that’s the ticket.

    The site should be internal, and let the field and others use it as appropriate. The bottom line is that very few, if any, customers care about matters such as this – they only care about what they are getting and what they are paying.

    The way to sell, to government or anyone, is the jump over the hurdles and promote the better value prop. In my book, Making The Technical Sale, I talk about RFIs and RFPs and guess what – they are all biased, intentionally or not. This means the outsider has to work way, way harder to get the deal, or can choose to walk away.

    A perfect example of this is Microsoft. For years and years, the federal government in the states had a rule that NO purchases of software could be made if the software did not have the proper security certification. And Microsoft’s OSes did not. But they still did enormous amounts of business with the U.S. government, including some mission-critical deployments. I never found out how they were able to do it, but they did. So it is possible.

  2. Pingback: Josh Bernoff on "Should you talk about your competitors?" « [CI]

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