So London’s media village is getting terribly excited about a new Sunday morning tv show about politics.
Host of the self-titled Peston has left the cossetted publicly funded BBC in favour of a commercial rival.
He made headlines before his ‘ratings war’ launch through his use of one particular word; “humiliate”.
Here’s the widely reported remarks from where this originated;
“Now I’m here I want [ITV] news to humiliate the BBC, get better scoops, win viewers … We are not going to be an existential threat to the BBC but we are going to give them a bloody good run for their money.”
On radio Wednesday this week, I heard him roll back from such sentiment. He claims the context is purely that whatever he does, he wishes to humiliate his opponent. Through victory.
“That was just me acting up, doing an interview because I was quite keen for the public to watch me in my first week. I love the BBC and I got upset about that sort of phoney spat, because [BBC main news presenter] Huw Edwards was a consistently good friend.”
Well. That’s alright then.
Except it isn’t. Not in my book.
I get so annoyed when I hear solution sellers openly belittle their competitors. As you can probably imagine, the language is more than that of a schoolyard than boardroom. (Although I accept it’s generally often hard to spot the difference).
The English term is to “slag off”.
It should be beneath all winning salespeople.
I once got trained (by Americans) that my Pavlovian response upon hearing the name of certain competition from the lips of prospects must only be immediate laughter.
The best handle I learned was to ignore any such bait. My only interest being in the match between potential client need and my resolution.
By all means lay traps for competitors. Knowing where they’re weak and we strong and deploying surreptitiously is a legitimate tactic. But don’t get overtly sucked in to a tit-for-tat feature war.
Also, absolutely do ‘pick an enemy’ (as so ably described by productivity developer 37signals). But don’t make this explicit in the minds of would-be customers. Select an element of competition, rather than their entire ecosystem and keep it as your secret motivation for best results.
Humiliate? I couldn’t care less. I feel sales success comes most not from observers noting who might be humiliated by you, but from celebrating your achievements as special.