Monday, May 17, 2010

FUD Slinging - Why It Is Poison

I made myself a few promises when I jumped the fence from end user to peddler of storage goods. Among those was that if I ever had to compromise my integrity or ethics I'd go find something else to do. This means that I have to believe in what I'm selling and that the product can stand on its own merits. It also means that I am free to be truthful with a prospect and walk away from an opportunity that doesn't make sense.

Happily, during my onboarding and initial training with Compellent these points were firmly established by the management team all the way from the top to my direct leadership. One of the points made, emphatically, was that it's a very bad idea to talk about the competition to your customer.

I heartily agree with this point of view. Based on my experience as a customer sitting through countless sales presentations I can tell you that there are a variety of reasons which make spreading FUD a bad practice and virtually no good ones.

1. When you talk about your competition you're taking time out from selling your solution. Time is golden. Every minute in front of a prospective customer is a chance to listen and learn and help solve their problems. Every minute spent bad mouthing your competition robs you of a chance to sell your value.

2. FUD is typically based on outdated or inaccurate information. I spend a great deal of my free time getting intimately familiar with my product. I do research competitive offerings just so I know how I stack up in a given account. The customer has allowed me in to talk about what I know best - my product.

3. It's annoying. Really. Sometimes customers will ask for competitive info and that's fine. But even then your probably going to offend someone in the room depending on how you approach those particular questions. I always try to keep it positive when asked about the competition - "Vendor X makes a really great product, it works well and they've sold a lot of them. However, this is how we're different and we believe this is a better fit for you."

4. It's potentially dangerous. First, if I spout off about a "weakness" in the competitions product I've just given the customer a reason to invite them back in to answer to my accusations. Bad for me. Secondly, my blabbering on and on about how bad my competition sucks may leave the customer wondering why I protest too much. Finally, if the FUD you spread turns out to be unfounded the customer could then be convinced you don't know your ass from a hole in the ground (and rightly so). To be honest, I really do like it when my competition has been in before me and spread FUD so that I get to spend more time talking about my product and feature set and to erode the customer's confidence in the other guy.

Anyway, that's my take. I'm not going to say I've never spread FUD. It's too tempting and sometimes the stress of the situation leads you to not think rationally and say all sorts of stupid things! But, as a practice in front of customers and in social media I do my level best to keep the conversation above the level of degrading anyone's company or product.


  1. So you've had fun watching @Storagezilla and @esignoretti due it out on Twitter today.

  2. Well, I would say it was kind of like watching a train wreck - I knew the outcome would be bad but I just couldn't take my eyes off of the action! :)