When is the right time to bad mouth your competitors?

Dishing it out on the competition is part of the game right? Well… KIRSTY DUNPHEY

Kirsty Dunphey

By Kirsty Dunphey

Earlier this week I went to see a health practitioner, let’s call him Dr Chris. When I mentioned that I’d previously seen a different health practitioner (let’s call him Dr Joe) to treat my ailment, Dr Chris then proceeded to tell me that Dr Joe was every sort of evil under the sun and had probably ruined me for life with his service.

I left with a pretty uneasy feeling about Dr Chris – I found the talk unprofessional, unnecessary and I left feeling no less confident about Dr Joe! All Dr Chris did was make me feel less confident in him.

So when is the right time to bad mouth your competitors?

  1. When you really really want the client?
  2. When you know for a certainty that your competitor is a really dodgy character?
  3. When your client starts to bad mouth them first?

In short, NO NO NO!

Even if you really want the client, bad mouthing your competitor only makes you appear unprofessional. The alternative: Just talk up your own positive points (without saying you do it better than your competitor, that still counts as bad mouthing).

And bad mouthing can go to a ridiculous level. I saw Virgin Blue’s rewards program Velocity entered the grey zone in bad mouthing, stating something to the effect of: “The new Qantas Frequent Flyer Rewards program proudly brought to you by Velocity” which reminded me a little of these airline adverts.

Even if you are 100% positive that your competitor is a dodgy character, bad mouthing them makes you look like even more of a dodgy character!

The alternative: Recommend that your client asks to speak to people who’ve dealt with whichever professional they are going to do business with, this way they can get the real truth about your competitor from their previous clients (be prepared though that this also means you recommend they speak to your clients).

If your client starts to bad mouth your competitor, even then don’t help them get stuck in!

The alternative: Tell your client what you would do in any situation where they have had bad previous dealings and see if that’s how they would like to be dealt with in the future.

On the flipside… if you’re this major company – you can make an entire ad campaign with Drew Barrymore’s former paramour (sorry, but I love that rhyme) bad mouthing your competitors.

But without Apple’s budget and ad-guys – you’re probably going to end up no more slick than this:

My preferred method? Do the opposite and find opportunities to congratulate your competitors. This worked exceptionally well for me in real estate. I’d make sure I knew a positive point about the agents I most regularly competed with so that I could say credibly something like: “Sue’s lovely, she writes really creative advertisements and she keeps the rest of us on our toes in that respect”. Client’s don’t expect it and most respect you for taking the high road.

And back to Dr Chris and Dr Joe – the first thing I did when I went home was let the friend who’d referred me to Dr Chris know what he’d said about Dr Joe. Being that Dr Joe’s a personal friend of hers I’m not sure Dr Chris will be getting too many other referrals from her.


Kirsty Dunphey is one of Australia’s most publicised young entrepreneurs and is the founder of www.reallysold.com – a tool to help real estate agents create advertisements. The youngest ever winner of the Australian Telstra Young Business Woman of the Year award, Kirsty started her first business at 15, her own real estate agency at 21, was a self-made millionaire at 23 and a self-made multi-millionaire at 25. For more information on Kirsty or either of her books – Advance to Go, Collect $1 Million and Retired at 27, If I can do it anyone can, or to sign up to her weekly newsletter head to: www.kirstydunphey.com

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