A commonly held belief among many in the selling profession is to “be the last one in the door.” The line of thought goes something like this: you can either defend your solution or discredit the claims of the competitors who have been there before you and have a better chance of closing the sale. There may certainly be some validity to this approach, but I wonder if in the process, the creation of value in the customers’ minds might become a bit of a muddled mess.

It is conceivable that customers could perceive a sales presentation as nothing more than propaganda to make one company look good and another to look bad. If the customer is having a difficult time sorting out the fact from the fiction, the hype from the hyperbole, then perhaps they won’t be able to understand real value when they see it.

According to my good friend and ace sales trainer, Steve Howard of The ACT Group, value is what your current and future customers are willing to pay for your product or service, and value is determined by the benefits they receive - more benefits create higher value. Frankly, I don’t believe Steve is the first person to have ever figured this out, though he certainly has a way of teaching sales that makes people think that he probably invented the stuff - considering his advancing wisdom, I guess it’s possible.

I was reading one of the old guy’s sales books about the topic of how to create more value with the products and services you are currently selling. Nowhere inside did I find a passage that encouraged a comparison to the competition.

Granted, you are constantly being asked to compare your services to your competitor. I am sure there are books dedicated to the art of comparison selling, but is it possible to provide value without devaluing the competition? Has the heart of selling been reduced to casting aspersions and doubt on another person’s claims? I don’t think so, but the temptation to make the other guy look bad is always there, and in fact, is somewhat engrained into the way we think about competitors. However, it is the customer who is left to determine the validity of all the claims and counterclaims.

Here is one illustration from a slightly different business perspective: In the magazine business, we are constantly barraged with well-meaning articles about products. Some of those articles are more of a sales pitch and perhaps unintentionally, throw an unfavorable light upon some unsuspecting competitor. If we are on our toes, we can improve the article before it hits the street and create a fair presentation of the product’s value - without unintentionally damaging another company’s reputation. If we are not on top of our game, then you will see some misleading information that you may believe to be the truth. But, you read it in the magazine. It must be true, right?


Likewise, John Q. Public wants to believe everything that an HVAC salesperson tells them. They don’t have the time to become an expert and they must rely on someone else that they can trust. Of course, every trustworthy salesperson worth their salt is trying to gain the customer’s confidence. Sometimes it may be tempting to build yourself up while casting shadows of doubt upon someone else’s solution.

All the while, the time to sell the true essence of added value may be slipping away. All things being equal, the company that provides the greatest value wins.

If you spend a large portion of each sales call combating the competition’s claims with flimsy or bogus pitches, the time the customer allows you to talk about the list of benefits that you can provide may be greatly reduced. The longer the straightforward list of benefits, the more likely are the chances that your benefits will win out in the end.


An HVAC salesperson’s greatest ally is an educated customer. As buyers become more familiar with HVAC solutions (and, they are) they may question some of the conflicting stories from competing companies. A customer may hear that one company said heat pumps blow cold air, another said they don’t. So, the customer eliminates all the confusion and buys a window unit from Home Depot instead.

Oh! What a bad ending to a story.

EPILOGUE:Sell the benefits straight up. Let the competition get mired in the muck.

Publication date:06/04/2007