Nov 14, 2022 • Podcast

How should I handle unethical competitors?

Paul addresses the critical factors of doing business ethically and with integrity.

Show Notes

Use your high ethical standards as a differentiator between you and your competitors.

Don’t stoop to your competitors’ benchmark of ethics.

If you lose business to an unethical competitor, still be gracious in defeat. Earn “safety net” status.

Through your frustration, remain 100% committed to your ethical standards. “Truth is undefeated.” (Gary Vaynerchuk) 

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How should I handle unethical competitors?

(Transcribed from podcast)

Well, on today’s episode, we are going to the website. Sueanne actually submitted a question to us and we’re going to tackle it on today’s show. So Sueanne is in the real estate/banking industry and here’s her question. She said, “You know, Paul, ethics are a major part of how we run our business. What do you suggest when our competitors do not adhere to the same high ethical standards to obtain listings in sales?” Sueanne, this is a great question. You know, business ethics and running a business with integrity and selling with integrity, these are all critical factors. In fact, they’re so critical because so many salespeople lack that high ethical standard, that integrity component. And that’s why salespeople, frankly, have been given a bad name over the years. So, Sueanne, this is a great question. We are going to tackle it on today’s show.

Before we get into it, though, a quick reminder, make sure you pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. Thinking about Sueanne’s question. When we face tough economic times, there is a greater temptation to maybe operate in the gray, to maybe put aside some of our standards, our ethics, our integrity, just to win a sale. And now is the time we’ve got to double down on that. So one of the ways you can do that is by building your skill set and focusing on having the right attitude. So, pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. It’s available wherever you get your books: Amazon, Chapters, Barnes & Noble—you name it, you can find it there. Pick up your copy.

And also, make sure you visit At the website, there are so many complimentary resources for you to help you go out there and sell in this current environment.

So let’s get back to it. I had a couple thoughts I wanted to share with you, Sueanne. First and foremost, one thing you should do is use your high ethical standards as a differentiator. When you think about that, I train a lot of salespeople and I meet with a lot of salespeople, and one thing that is rarely mentioned as a key differentiator, really, are the ethical practices of the salesperson. And I really think, Sueanne, this is an opportunity for you to highlight your integrity. It’s an opportunity for you to create distance between you and other individuals in your industry.

So, here’s what I would encourage you to do. Build a sales story around your integrity, and here’s how you do that. You want to think of some examples, over the years, in your career, where your high ethical standards have served the customer well—served the industry well—and be able to share that story with your customers. So when you’re meeting with a prospect or an existing customer, you can talk about what makes you different, and you can talk about your company, of course, you can talk about the services that you have to offer, but you also need to mention yourself. You are that third dimension of value that we’ve talked about on this show several times. So you bring 25% of the value. That’s what customers tell us. So if you can tell a story about your integrity, your high ethical standards, and how it helped serve customers better, that’s going to create distance between you and all the other alternatives. So keep that in mind.

Number two, you don’t want to stoop down to your competitor’s level. You don’t want their benchmark of ethics to be the benchmark that you’re trying to match. So I would encourage you, when you get frustrated, when you see them doing unethical things to win business, try not to get frustrated by it. Realize that you can only control what you can control. You cannot control the situation. You cannot control what they do, but what you can control is how you respond. So, just don’t stoop down to their level. Don’t mimic your competition.

And going hand in hand with that, one thing I would encourage you to do is to highlight the ethical practices of your business. So going hand in hand with that, if you’re not going to stoop down to their level, we need to make the buyer aware of what level they’re at. And so, I would indirectly call attention to your competitor’s weakness. And again, we’re not badmouthing our competition, but here’s how it may look. Let’s say you are trying to promote your ethical standards, your integrity as a salesperson. You can also do that with your company. Think about some of the awards that your company may have received for being a great partner in the community. In fact, I remember when I work with, US Bank (and they do a great job) and I remember going onto their website and one of the first things I would see on the website when logging in—this is a number of years ago—US Bank won an award for ethical practices in the banking industry. It was some award, like they were #1 in certain categories, whatever it may be. But, what US Bank was doing was highlighting their ethics. They weren’t spotlighting some of the other banks who have been adopting shady practices around that same time. Instead, they were calling attention to their strengths. So I would encourage you to do that. Think about how you can call attention to your strengths.

Another client of mine, this was several years ago I was working with them, they’re in the remodeling business. And I don’t know if you knew this, but gosh, the remodeling industry is filled with shady characters: people that are just showing up, they’ll take your deposit, they may leave town; they’re going to do shoddy work. They promise a lot and deliver far less than what the expectation is they set. So this industry is just full of individuals that are not delivering on promises, they’re not acting ethical in some ways. This company has one of the highest ratings in the Better Business Bureau that you can get. They actually won an award. I think it’s called like the Blue Torch or something like that. But this company is operating with extremely high ethical standards. And because of that, they’re winning rewards. That’s the fruit of their labor. They’re able to share that with their customers and clients. So they can draw attention to that. They can call attention to their high ethical standards. And what you’re doing is you’re trying to establish that as a benchmark from which they should grade all the other options. And if they’re going to use ethical standards as one of the benchmarks, they’re going to go back to some of your competitors acting unethically, and it will become obvious that they don’t want to partner with them. So keep that piece in mind.

Now, another thing to think about when you do lose an opportunity to a competitor who is acting unethical, or they’re just not acting at a level that is up to your standards, you want to be more gracious in the defeat than you are excited about the victory. Here’s what I mean. Every salesperson gets excited when they win a deal, when they win a new piece of business. But if you’re losing that business to a seller that is not acting as ethically as you, you want to be gracious to that customer and you want to earn what we call safety-net status.

You want to remind them that you believe that you are the best fit… “However, you’re moving in a different direction. I understand that. We’d like to be here for you in case something happens. We’re here to support you. Just let us know how we can help.” You’re earning that safety-net status. And what that will do is perhaps put you in a position to come in and save the day if that customer has a bad experience or something goes wrong, or if the unethical competitor starts to show their true colors, and the customer decides to leave, then you are the first one there. So you want to earn that safety-net status. You can only do that by being more gracious in defeat than you are excited about the victory.

So one final thing here. You know, I was watching this video the other day. It’s from Gary Vee, Gary Vaynerchuk, famous motivational speaker. He was talking about competitors and how you handle competitors that are liars, that are cheating, that are stealing your ideas, that are acting unethical. And he said something really profound. I don’t know if he originally said this, but I heard him say it. He said, “Truth is undefeated.” So let that sink in for a moment. Truth is undefeated. That means, Sueanne, when you’re facing these challenging moments, you need to remain 100% committed to your ethical standards.

Yeah, it’s going to be frustrating. Yeah, you’re going to be challenged. Yeah, you’re going to be ticked off some days. But remain 100% committed to your ethics, to your values, to those principles that guide you, because in the long run, truth is undefeated. What a great message. So, we’ll have a link to that video actually on this episode’s show notes, so you can check out the full YouTube video with Gary Vee. But it’s a great message: Truth is undefeated.

All right, Sueanne. I hope that helps you. Again, unethical competitors, man, they’re not fun to deal with, but you know what? In the long run, they’re going to make you look even better. They’re going to make you stronger. So thank you for asking the question.

Make it a big day.

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