I was in the gym the other day riding on a bike and doing a little reading. The bikes are located near the front door and an open entry area. And much to my frustration, it isn't unusual for the gym to allow various vendors to set up in that lobby area.

Yesterday, the vendor was selling supplements. You know, protein shakes, energy drinks, etc. As I sat there on the bike, I couldn't help but watch the salesman try to engage the gym members with an offer of a free sample.

Most were obviously annoyed at having to run this "gauntlet" on their way to work out (subject for another blog) and simply ignored his offer. However, one guy responded, "Already have one" as he raised a bottle to show what he brought along.

What the salesman said in response was, "Gatorade? There's absolutely nothing in there!" However, what I heard was, "Gatorade? How stupid are you?!"

I know we've all learned along the way to not attack the competition, but it was an unusual opportunity to witness the impact as a third-party. When you attack your competition, you attack the decision process of your prospect. Not only is it insulting, the result is they will most likely become defensive; defensive of their decision and defensive of the competitor you just attacked. It certainly won't attract them to you.

If the supplement salesman had taken a different tactic, perhaps he would have had a better chance. Instead of attacking, maybe he could have used the Gatorade decision as a teaching moment.

A better response?

  • First, he could have praised the fact that this particular young man was obviously smart enough to be using a similar product. Maybe it wasn't the ideal choice, but at least he showed an interest in moving in the right direction.
  • Next, he could have shown a genuine interest in helping this young man. He could have asked what he was hoping to achieve by using the energy drink. Then, with his desired outcome in mind, the salesman could have respectfully asked for permission to explain how to choose the drink that best suits those results. Now, instead of attacking his past decision, he would be helping make a more informed decision on his next purchase.
  • Finally, if our gym-intruding-supplement-salesman (I told you there's another blog coming) truly offered the best solution, I think he would be more likely to make a sale.

The reminder to me was:

  • Don't attack your competition.
  • Be curious to find out why a prospect has made past decisions.
  • Know what they want to achieve with future decisions.
  • Educate the prospect on the relevant issues to consider when making that decision.
  • Know your competition's weaknesses and shortcomings. (Not attacking your competition is not the same as not exposing their weaknesses.)
  • Be sure you have created a solution that becomes the obvious answer.

Most buyers are interested in working with someone who will take the time to help them make better buying decisions. That path never starts with you telling them (directly or indirectly) they are stupid.


Photo by Elnur