You should be recommending your competition

When I was sixteen I had my first job as a salesperson at a retail clothing store, Millers Outpost. In 1987, it was a great place to buy clothing for both teens and adults.

Most of the time I sold clothes we carried. But every now and then I would make a different kind of sale. I would recommend that the customer check out a different store. I was recommending my competition!

Here’s the crazy thing I learned a long time ago – when you put the customer’s needs first, the trust you develop pays repeating dividends.

You already know this – whatever you do, you likely don’t do it perfectly for everyone. Most of us work in companies that serve a select set of segments.

That means there’s a segment of customers that aren’t perfect for you and your business.

In the moment you discover that a customer isn’t a good fit, what do you do? If you still try to sell your products, you’re a jerk. If you let them know you’re not a good fit, but don’t recommend an alternative, at best case it’s a neutral interaction.

But if you can recommend a solution, even if it’s with a competitor, you’ll have created an experience that’s memorable. And that’s what sticks in people’s memories.

This is why I have no trouble recommending my competition. Because doing right by the customer is more important.