How to discredit your competitors

Children and lunatics cut the Gordian Knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie.
— Jean Cooteau

A headline about the US presidential debate claimed Hillary Clinton unties the Gordian knot (ABC news online 27 September 2016).  In this case the Gordian Knot is

“…the growing realisation that Mr Trump continues to rise no matter what serial atrocities or outrages he commits …”

Before we see what we can learn about discrediting our competitors, let’s just remind ourselves just what is a Gordian knot. More than 2000 years ago, Gordius created an intricate knot described as several knots so entangled it was impossible to see how they were fastened. The story was that whoever could untie the knot would rule Asia.

Many tried to untie the knot, but none succeeded. Alexander the Great saw the knot and heard the story. For a long time, Alexander studied the puzzling knot, but could not see a beginning or an end to its twists and turns. Suddenly, Alexander drew his sword and with a decisive blow cut the knot.  That’s why when someone solves a complicated problem with bold and decisive action we still talk of "cutting the Gordian knot"

What can we learn for business?

The article talks of Mrs Clinton unpicking the knot during the debate. In plain language she discredited Mr Trump.  The new 2016 book by influence guru Robert Cialdini helps us understand why Hilary was so successful.  Robert Cialdini explains that in contests of persuasion, counter-arguments are typically more powerful than arguments.  A counter-argument that shows your opponent is misinformed on the topic will usually win that argument. However, showing that your opponent is misinformed on that topic will normally win that argument plus any future arguments with the opponent because it shows your opponent to be untrustworthy. So, in the debate Hilary Clinton won the argument and discredited Donald Trump. The second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump reinforces the messages from the first debate.

In business, we often face unscrupulous competitors willing to bend the truth. Using research findings, rather than putting forward our argument first, wait for our competitor to present their case and then present your counter-arguments. You will win your argument and show the customer that your competitor is untrustworthy.