One of our mottos is “In all things, be honourable.” I demand it of our employees. We insist on it with our customers. I strive for it in my personal interactions.
And I expect it of others in our industry.
Unfortunately, and always to my surprise (as I am eternally pollyannic), my expectations for honourable behaviour among our colleagues and competitors are not always met.
In fact, quite the opposite, we are increasingly finding that others in our industry are scratching and clawing, throwing mud and raking muck, and, well, completely making stuff up.
It’s very disappointing and disheartening.
And, while I’m on this subject, let me just put this out here:
It is never ok to diss the competition.
It’s a terrible sales technique, and it’s an even worse corporate practice.
(Oh, I can hear folks saying “Hey, if it’s good enough for presidential candidates, it’s good enough for business.”)
But it isn’t, so let me repeat – it is never, ever ok to diss the competition. For a host of business reasons, which I won’t go into here, but hopefully, you know what they are. Or, at least, you know not to do it.
In fact, we are so clear on this at ISIPP SuretyMail, that doing so would be a fireable offense.
It’s. Just. Not. Ok.
When you are trying to get a sale, the way to do it is to talk about why your product / service / widget is so much better than the available alternatives.
You don’t try to sell your product or service by telling the prospect how bad everyone else is.
Even if they are.
But especially if they aren’t.
This is just basic business, as well as basic human decency.
Fortunately, trash talking the competition is also bad business, and rarely works, so that those who do it eventually learn that it doesn’t actually help their sales, or their bottom line.
But it’s still disgusting.
Here are some examples of things that our customers have shared with us, that they have been told by various companies out in the email industry:
Now, note that these are things that our customers are telling us – they come to us and tell us what they are hearing because they are always surprised to hear things like this from other “professionals”. It’s never actually raised the issue – let alone lead to the result – that the other “professional” was hoping for. That’s because we do follow our own motto, and attempt, in all things, to be honourable. Also, we are very clear with our customers about what we can, and can’t, do for them. And our customers love us for it – and of course it helps that we provide deliverability that’s second to none, at a price that’s lower than none. And our customers know it.
So I usually just shake my head over what we’re hearing, and let it go.
But this week we heard something so preposterous – so outlandish – in fact such a bald-faced lie – that, well, it lead to this post.
Here’s what we heard:
Let me tell you, I was flabbergasted.
Because not only was it patently untrue – I mean nobody who has any familiarity with our service could say that with a straight face – but that someone who held themselves out as an expert in the industry could either a) say that and believe it, or b) say that knowing it was untrue, demonstrates that our industry has truly gone to the dogs.
Have we become as bad as the spammers from which our own email senders are attempting to distinguish themselves?
Are we, as an industry, telling email senders that they must be truthful and honourable, while we are exemplifying exactly the opposite behaviour in our business practices?
Make no mistake – these shenanigans are not hurting our own business in the slightest; in fact they only serve to make our customers and prospective customers appreciate our candor and transparency all the more.
But, they are hurting our industry. They are making the industry less credible, and harder to take seriously. They are dragging down the reputation of our industry. Oh, the irony, given that it’s an industry that’s all about reputation.
I’ve been in this industry since before it was an industry. Back when I was one of the original founders of Habeas, Habeas was the first actual email deliverability company – and we didn’t even know that’s what it was at the time. SenderScore, which originally was called Bonded Sender, was spun out by Ironport at about the same time as a service for Ironport customers – whose email was getting blocked because the Ironport appliance was so effective at sending out high volumes of email that it made them look like spammers. Ironport opened up Bonded Sender to others within weeks of our launching Habeas, and thus, between the two, was the email deliverability industry born.
At that time Scott Weiss, as CEO of Ironport, and I, as CEO of Habeas, would occasionally meet at industry functions and chat – there was certainly no animosity, and it was clear that this new industry was large enough to support several players, and, we agreed, we were all there to accomplish the same thing: to help ISPs be able to distinguish wanted email from spam, which allowed them to better deal with spam, and also allowed legitimate senders to not have to worry about whether their email would get delivered.
We got along. We even referred people to each other. And when I left Habeas, and took the helm at ISIPP, and when email senders and receivers came to us and asked us to please create an email deliverability service at ISIPP, we made a point of not only speaking positively about the other services, but of actually giving senders who used other services positive points in our own reputation scoring system.
So, perhaps you can understand how disheartened I am to see the depths to which some in the industry have reached in just a few short years.
Disheartened, yes. But also surprised. And shocked. Occasionally even disgusted.
But mostly, it just makes me sad.
No, you aren’t being to pollyannic.
ALL companies should uphold the standards to which your company does. It is definitely NOT ok to accept anything less than absolute professionalism at all times.
I would be contacting my attorney and doing some damage control: at the slanders’ expense.
Kris – heh..here I am, a lawyer, and that never crossed my mind. But, you’re right that there could be a legal basis for a suit for intentional interference with contract, and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage (both legitimate legal causes of action in business).
But, honestly, that would make us no better than them. Litigation isn’t the answer. Just being above it, and being the best business we can is a far better path to take.
You’re right that businesses shouldn’t diss the competition -and that it’s generally bad business to do so.
Unfortunately, there are some sales people who will use any tactic they can to try to bring in sales – bad mouthing others and lying. Sometimes they just haven’t had good sales training. Othertimes, they’re just unethical and don’t care what they say if they think they’ll get a sale.
In the long run, bad mouthing other businesses or other people comes back to bite.
I know Anne….but should this continue to happy you may need the documentation is further issues arrive. I’d at least have a cease and desist letter sent. I’m sorry you have to go through this. :(
I am outraged by this account! I’ve been selling an ESP for more than 7 years and have more than 25 years experience as a sales professional. I knew there were those who would disparage the competition, but this is just beyond belief!
I don’t believe in frivolous lawsuits, but I do believe in punishing people who deserve it. I’m really tired of people walking away and letting the bad guys get away with “murder.” That has cost me 10s of thousands of dollars because no one spoke up or stepped up to stop the bad guy.
I think part of taking the high road includes making those people just as accountable for their actions as you require of your employees.
I wish I could know what ESPs’ employees are saying these horrid things. Poor pathetic losers! I’m not surprised since it seems to be the thing to always throw any blame on the other party and avoid any accountability or responsibility, so this is the only way they know how to “sell.”
Sue them! Hopefully, the companies will fire these little snarky idiots who give the rest of us, sales professionals, ESPs, etc., a bad name! And, really, they wouldn’t be doing it if their employers didn’t in some way sanction this behavior. they need to be held accountable for their actions and exposed as the bad business people they are. This is a dangerous precedent than needs to be stopped.
Please feel free to contact me directly to discuss if you wish.
Lydia, thank you for your thoughtful comments!
I just want to be sure that it’s clear that for the most part these aren’t ESPs, but other email deliverability optimization companies (we are not an ESP..and the service we offer that this is about is our service through which we accredit the email of legitimate senders to help ensure that it is delivered to the inbox).
That said, some of these shenanigans about which we’ve been hearing were indeed from ESPs.
I’m not surprise actually. I was in the process of getting a partner for my email marketing service and i meet up with a few companies, Habeas, ReturnPath Sender Score and your company, ISIPP SuretyMail. I’m surprise how one of the company listed above saying all the bad things about their competitor and how they are the best but since I’m an ESP, the only thing they can provide me is a tool for me to find out which one of my customer is having a bad delivery so that I can sell their product to my customers. That is the only thing they can provide me and nothing more. When I pointed out how they are providing so and so with such services, my jaw nearly drop when I hear the whole story about they making a mistake selling that services and it is due to bad sales person and that they have been fired and that the company will not renew the contract with those company…. at the end of the day, they can’t help us in anyway other than we sell their services. Nothing more and I spend nearly an hour listening to them telling me how I should price my product to include their services and how it will make me become a premium service provider and dah dah dah… and of course the rest of the competitor are doing all the bad things and they are not famous as them who have been working with tons of ISPs and respected by tons of ISPs.
Here we are looking for someone who can help improve our delivery and help us with the whitelisting with the ISPs and this guys aren’t interested in helping us.
By all honesty, I’ve been reading a lot about SuretyMail and you Anne (read about your life story too) and I can feel the honesty in your company without even speaking to a single staff of SuretyMail.
You will hear from us by end of this more or the first week of August. We will sign up with your service and you won a customer without even speaking to them. Well done.
Tipsy – wow! I don’t even know what to say to your comment! I am *so* sorry that you had such an experience, but I am also so grateful – and humbled – by your kind words. Thank you!