Jill Konrath


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Preemptive Strikes: A Highly Effective Sales Strategy for Dealing With Bad-Mouthing Competitors


What a brilliant sales strategy! That's exactly what came to mind when I saw Rick Santorum's new television ad. But before you watch it, a little background:

If you follow American politics, you know that Mitt Romney's status as the "presumptive" Republican presidential nominee recently came to a screeching halt. After sweeping the recent caucuses in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota, suddenly Santorum was surging in the polls.

But just a few weeks earlier, Newt Gingrich had been the frontrunner. That is, until Romney's super PACs spent $15 million in Florida and flooded the airwaves with negative ads. This onslaught nearly collapsed Gingrich's campaign.

So Santorum's team decided to launch a preemptive strike in Michigan, the newest battleground state. They knew their candidate would be attacked on all fronts. Plus, having just a pittance of Romney's budget, they knew they couldn't fight him head on.

What did they do it? They put together a commercial they call "Rombo." The setting? An abandoned warehouse. The action? A Romney look-alike slinging mud at a Santorum cutout. The message? Check it out. It's extemely effective.

YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OtOcrS6axnE

What's so brilliant about this approach, is that they've essentially made it impossible for Romney to "sling mud" without looking like a total jerk. He can't take down Santorum, without taking himself down in the process. He's totally neutralized.

How can you use a preemptive strike in sales?

I'll never forget when I was selling computers and up against a sleazy competitor. He was a master at trashing our systems and my company in such a way that my prospects didn't take offense. They believed him.

After losing to him twice, I'd had enough. So the third time I did a preemptive strike and told my prospect the truth about the previous encounters. Basically I said:

"When you meet with him, he'll tell you this … Then he'll pull out this false study … And, he'll insinuate that our company is in falling apart. None of that is true. I want you to know about it now, before it happens."

Sure enough, that's exactly what my competitor did just a few days later. How did I know? My prospect called me right away and told me.

In short, if you know that people are going to be doing dirty tricks on you - bring it up upfront. Tell the truth. Be factual. Don't trash your competitor. And make sure you keep your emotions out of it or you'll sound like a crazed lunatic.

Then let your prospects be the judge. The truth will win out. Romney Attack

YOUR TURN: Have you ever done a preemptive strike? If so, what made you take this action, what did you do and what were the results? 

Jill KonrathJill Konrath is an internationally recognized sales strategist. As author of two bestselling books, SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies, she's a frequent speaker at sales meetings and conferences. For more fresh ideas, download her free Prospecting Toolkit.


Love this, Jill! A wonderful reminder not to let emotion get in the way when you're in this kind of situation - which can be hard, but you're right. When you emotionally take up for yourself, you don't win any points in the eyes of your potential clients. Behaving "madly" doesn't influence your niche and win sales. Thanks for sharing your story and the video!
Posted @ Sunday, February 19, 2012 7:11 PM by Lisa Rae Preston
We havne't used this strategy in the past, but we will now. Thank you for the good advice.
Posted @ Monday, February 20, 2012 9:01 AM by Jeanette Spofford
Jill, great strategy! I suppose this goes under the general topic of framing - you effectively framed what your prospect would be hearing from your competitor so that it would be seen in a completely different perspective than your competitor desired. Thanks all the great advice on your blog!
Posted @ Monday, February 20, 2012 11:10 AM by John Kramer
This is a great strategy! I love what Santorum did. Maybe now we can have candidates talk about issues instead of slinging mud. 
I have actually had competitors lie about my company. I am going to use this strategy the next time I'm up against them. Thanks for sharing it!
Posted @ Monday, February 20, 2012 2:20 PM by Sandee Rodriguez
I always liked Santorum, and this is an excellent strategy, too. We're going to work this into our repertoire starting today!
Posted @ Monday, February 20, 2012 2:37 PM by Al
This approach to preempting your competitors has been around as long as grass has grown on the planet -- or should I say "burnt grass" which is essentially what you need to do so a known competitor will be challenged to light a fire beneath your feet when you walk through the door.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 22, 2012 9:23 PM by Steve Thomson
I calmly say my competitors have a good product as do I. The difference is how my team takes care of you the day after we install ours. I tell customers I don't engage in attacks. If I've done my job, you will buy my solution.
Posted @ Wednesday, February 22, 2012 10:23 PM by Harry McFarland
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