Trash Your Competition: Bad Idea

Education & Training with Sommers Communication

angry womanI tend to follow marketing people on Facebook as well as ActiveRain, and for the most part they do a great job promoting themselves as experts in their field. Every once in a while however, someone uploads a post that does more harm to their reputation than good. Let me give you an example.

Talk Trash

Recently, one of the marketing people I follow uploaded a post trashing a competitor. She didn’t name the competitor, but she made a big deal as to how unqualified this individual was with respect to teaching a certain subject. It was clear that her intent was to promote her credibility as the expert while trashing the expertise of her competition. Bad idea. In doing so, she lowered herself in the eyes of many of her followers.

This Was My Intent … Really

I’m certain that if you asked her what her intent was with the post, she would tell you that she wanted to warn people not to fall pray to unqualified service providers. Problem was, that’s not how the post came across to me or to most of her readers. It read as though she had an axe to grind with this individual and this was her way of trashing them while promoting herself as the guru.

Now, if you were to read the comments her followers made concerning her post, you would think that she is a goddess who can do no wrong. Unfortunately, the only people who commented on her post where her acolytes who gave here a false sense that what she did was OK. It wasn’t, and here’s why.

Reason 1:

When you’re the recognized expert in your field, people hold you to a higher standard. They don’t expect you to verbally hammer the little guy, even if you don’t call them by name. They will see you as a bully with a big stick. It’s the equivalent of the President of the United States getting on national television and telling the American people that the union or the management of a specific company is evil and greedy. Name calling at that level is just not done.

And they believe that if you’re capable of bullying someone else, you’re certainly capable of bullying them. There’s a reason people cheer for the underdog when the person in power is abusing it.

Reason 2:

When you talk about or write about how bad someone is, you’re associating yourself with that story. I, for example, will always associate this marketing person with this specific Facebook post. If her intent was to tear apart her competitor and built her reputation at the same time, she could have asked one of her acolytes to post the message for her. Had she done that, she would have successfully stabbed her competition in the back while looking totally innocent. P.S. I don’t suggest you do this.

Water fightReason 3:

No one likes a complainer. Complaining about someone else is a sign of weakness and vulnerability. It is not what you expect from someone who is at the top of their game. It does not instill confidence in your capabilities. People will always wonder why you are more concerned about your competition than you are with your own capabilities.

What’s The Solution?

If my marketing friend was really concerned about her customers getting screwed, she could have conveyed that message while building her reputation as a likable problem solver at the same time. Rather than slam her competitor, she could have posted a warning in the form of a tip. For example.

To my Active Rain friends.

Here are a few tips to help insure that you’re getting the very best value for your money when you hire someone to (fill in the blank.)

  1. Check their credentials
  2. Check their references
  3. Check their reputation
  4. Check bla bla bla

In doing these four things, you will not only protect yourself against fraud, but you will find a service provider that you can trust. If a service provider is reluctant to provide this information, run!


Now, that’s a much better way to provide a warning without complaining and without bullying the underdog. Just as importantly, you shouldn’t be talking trash about your competition even if you are the new guy on the block. It doesn’t wear well on anyone.

We like people who we associate with good feelings and we don’t like people who we associate with bad feelings. Make sure that every conversation you have and every post you upload to the Internet encourages people to associate you with good feelings. It will not only improve your likeability, but it will build your reputation as the expert in your field.

If you would like to read more about how to be immediatley more likeable, please join the Likeability Guy at

Comments (71)

Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTORĀ® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

I learned a great lesson when I started a home audio store in 1973 in Norman, Oklahoma. The old competition was trashing us to every potential client that came into their store around the corner. They built our traffic up dramatically because people wanted to see why they were so afraid of us. Best to be silent sometimes.

Jun 15, 2009 03:31 AM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

I speak highly of most other agents or say nothing.  Now I will warn people about issues they might run into and what to be careful of.

Jun 15, 2009 03:54 AM
Stacey Johnson-Cosby
Reece & Nichols Realtors-Kansas City - Kansas City, MO
Selling Kansas City-Real Estate & City Blog

Speaking negatively of the competition does indeed violate the Code of Ethics. I actually once saw an advertisement in a local newspaper where a Realtor (yes, a Realtor), paid to run an ad that said, "Realtors suck"...among other negative things about us, mostly stereotypes that the public holds. His point was to say that he was different. I immediately took some time and filed a complaint with my local Board of Realtors. It turned out in his response, that his Broker didn't know that he was running this ad, made him stop and accept responsibility for his actions (a fine & required classes). So, we never made it to the Hearing Panel. But, I was ready. My guess is that he will never do this again. When we see it happening, we need to police our own. We can clean up our industry from the inside, and not let the public have to see this, or do it for us. If they say it to us, they are saying it to buyers and sellers.

We also need to protect ourselves. I had an agent who goofed during the transaction & did not protect her clients. She was mad at me & told me after it closed that she would tell everybody about me. I told her that if I found that she said one word about me that was untrue and negative, that I would instantly file a complaint against her and provide evidence about what happened in the transaction. She emailed me back that she would not. I've been listening...

Jun 15, 2009 04:08 AM
Terry Osburn
BHHS|Drysdale Properties - Pleasant Hill, CA
Broker Associate

We need to be careful BUT we also have a responsibility to let others know of certain practices happening.

Had the Physicians policed themselves many years ago and not covered up the wrongs of their fellow practitioners , managed care may not have entered , at least with as much devastation. Again, another whole blog......separate from real estate.

Calling someone out by name I do believe is a risk. However calling out a questionable practice that consumers need to be aware of as well as other Realtors is another thing .

In terms of going to a listing presentation and bashing the competition......that shows the ineptitude and lack of confidence and ability of that Realtor or agent who feels the need to do such. They should consider another line of work.

Jun 15, 2009 04:36 AM
Tere Rottink
CoastalVa Realty Inc - Virginia Beach, VA

"Rather than slam her competitor, she could have posted a warning in the form of a tip."

I think this is the best way to handle a situation like this.  Karma is a.....

Jun 15, 2009 04:53 AM
Nicole Lahti
United Lending - Austin, TX
Austin Texas Mortgage

Thank you! As a loan officer, I've experienced some of my peers talk badly about their competition to prospects to win their business, and it REALLY bothers me.  For instance, they'll make assumptions of what the other LO was thinking when structuring the deal, and imply they are inexperienced or taking advantage of the client.  Its just plain wrong, and I make it a point to NEVER do that even when bidding for the business.

I think its important for us to treat our competition the way we'd hope they'd treat us.

Jun 15, 2009 05:16 AM
Lyn Sims
Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Real Estate Agent Retired

Boy you are the likability guy!  Yeah I suppose I agree, sorta.  No sticks?

Jun 15, 2009 06:27 AM
Christianne O'Malley
Dickson Realty - Reno, NV
Exceptional Service - Delivering Results in Reno!

I'd rather take the high road and just tout the benefits of working with me rather than try to tear my competitors down...and besides, it's against the NAR rules for me to do that anyway.

Jun 15, 2009 06:40 AM
Bob Sommers
Sommers Communication - Kihei, HI
The Likeability Guy

Thank you for your comments and stories. I'm surpirsied at how many of us have had to deal with people who feel justified in trashing their competition and how blinded they are as to how they're seen by others due to their behavior.

Jun 15, 2009 06:50 AM
Kimberly Thomas, Broker-Associate - Voorhees, NJ
Keller Williams Realty - Voorhees, NJ

Good post and great reminder to stay positive. Always better to just state your value proposition and leave it at that. You're right -it makes you look bad when you try to look better than other by trashing them. As my mother used to say, "If you can't say anything good about someone, don't say anything at all." That's the mantra that's been drummed into my head which keeps me grounded.

Jun 15, 2009 08:25 AM
Daniel J. Hunter
REALTORĀ® - New Port Richey, FL

alot of great responses here.  I thought it was a rather straightforward answer.  I win trust and prospects by talking myself, and my firm, up. 

Anybody have a problem with officewide Preferred vendor lists & Blackball lists for vendors with major problems or shortcomings

Jun 15, 2009 08:26 AM
Dawn Maloney
RE/MAX Trinity Northeast Ohio Real Estate Specialist - Hudson, OH
330-990-4236 Hudson & Northeastern Ohio

Once we had a broker who ran an ad that said, "Other agents get lost in _______." The board made them stop running it, but hey, it WAS true. That place is hard to navigate. :)

Another broker ran a series of ads saying he was the only one with the guts to tell the truth...umm, that didn't last long either.

Let us remember the wise Ben Franklin (wasn't it?) who said, "Keep your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them..."


Jun 15, 2009 09:38 AM
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

You never know when you might need the agent you trashed in some way. You might have to be working with that person and need her as an can think what you want but don't trash her outwardly.

Patricia Aulson/portsmouth nh real estate

Jun 15, 2009 09:50 AM
Bob Sommers
Sommers Communication - Kihei, HI
The Likeability Guy


Thank you for inspiring me on my next blog post.

"Keep your words soft and sweet in case you have to eat them."

And thank you to "Confused" who wrote in comment #43. I encourage you all to read his or her post. The question you bring up is this,

"How do I "ring the bell of injustice" without using it to promote me and or my service at the same time?"

My feeling is that when you "ring the bell" and you try to benefit from it directly, you're on the wrong path. When you "ring the bell" for the benefit of those being taken advantage of without standing on their back or trying to prop yourself up in the process, you're getting the warning out for the right reasons.

There is a time when we need to raise our voices when an injustices is taking place. The question we must ask ourselves is, "For whose benefit are we doing this?"

Jun 15, 2009 10:04 AM
Julie Horton
Open Door Realty - Cornelius, NC

Great Post!  I was always told "Never put someone else down to build yourself up"...

Jun 15, 2009 11:48 AM
Charles Stallions
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services - Pensacola, FL
800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl.

All us old school better catch up. Bashing and trashing is all around us just listen to what our kids are fed everyday through the radio and news.

Jun 15, 2009 02:48 PM
Lynne Schleper

There is enough turmoil in this world without us bashing on each other.....we all need each other to survive.

Jun 15, 2009 03:08 PM
Sonya Loose
Modern Realty - Beaverton, MI
Helping Buyers & Sellers of Waterfront Property

I like your post and how you pointed out how it could have been done correctly!  Cool pictures that you choose too!!!

Jun 16, 2009 06:04 AM
Mark Velasco
Sharpstone Commercial - Whittier, CA
Top Producing COMMERCIAL Team 30+ years experience

Hi Bob. Very true. If you are one of the best at what you do...others will know. No need to attack the other guy. Attacking is usually a sign of weakness and a lack of class.

Jun 23, 2009 04:43 PM
1~Judi Barrett
Integrity Real Estate Services 116 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745 - Idabel, OK
BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK

It is never  a good idea to trash talk anyone.  If something needs to be addressed, it should be done in the right way. 

Very Very Very Good Post.

Dec 08, 2009 09:30 AM