Bad Mouthing the Competition?

Jim Luff
Posted on August 16, 2010
DON’T MAKE YOURSELF LOOK BAD: I have always taken pride in the fact that I don’t trash talk my competition. To people on the receiving end of a rant about the competition, it can sound childish and immature. It certainly is unprofessional.
Since the time I entered this business, I have always done my best to work with local competitors. In the last 20 years, I have seen many come and go. I have also seen start-ups that continue to exist that keep nipping at my heels. I have seen an employee leave our company to start her own limousine service that still exists today, although she is no longer part of the company.
It seems that one thing in common about those that failed is they all used a method of sales that never really works. My first experience with a bad mouthing competitor came from a chauffeur that sued his former employer for a work-related injury and then received a settlement and started his own limousine service. Countless prospective clients would call for a quote and tell me the negative things this guy would say about our company. To those callers, it was a turn-off. Then there was the employee that left who used a pitch that she had worked for our company and knew there was a better way to do business.
Eventually her financial backer realized the lack of professionalism in many aspects of the business and paid her to go away. That company is now run by its third owner and is very successful. Most importantly, we work together. In fact, if I don’t have something available, I send the work to people I consider my friends over at Vintage Limousine. There are 20 limousine services listed in the Bakersfield phone book and it is the only other company we recommend by name.
While I don’t refer to anyone else in my city, I would certainly never speak ill of someone. Although in the case of the company that bad-mouthed us, I did take an opportunity to take a swipe back once. It seems he told everyone his single limousine was “brand new” and even kept the paper tags on the car for well over a year. I pointed this out to a police officer one day at an event and the vehicle was promptly towed for not having tags. However, that was a matter between the owner and me, and I would still never bad mouth his company and diminish our image with negative talk.
While Bakersfield is not really a small town anymore with our metropolitan area approaching a million residents, it seems everyone knows everyone and negative things that are said are quickly repeated and eventually get back to the person you are speaking badly about. What purpose does it serve? Even if the trash you are talking is completely true, I believe we should spend more time talking about and building up our own businesses in the minds of clients instead of wasting time belittling someone else.
There are things that I might say that imply to a customer that a certain company might be substandard to our own, but I don’t say things that aren’t true. For instance, if a client is clearly shopping by price, I will tell them the name and phone number of the cheapest limousine service in town. People are sometimes stunned. I am not the discount guy in town. I know who is, and they know who they are. Why not refer the client looking for cheap to the guy that does cheap? I have taken that same guy out and shared a pitcher of beer with him.

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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