August 9, 2011 by Ken Dooley
Posted in: closing, communication, negotiating, Sales meeting ideas, Special Report - Sales & Marketing, training, Value
This simple sentence is enough for some salespeople to leave a prospect’s office and never return:
“I’m satisfied with my present supplier.”
But what those salespeople forget is that “satisfied” customers switch to competitors every day.
Just because a prospect claims to be satisfied with a present supplier doesn’t mean that he is. He may be unhappy and not even know it yet. The key to overcoming rejection is persistence — because most customers are never completely satisfied with their present suppliers.
Look for problems
The customer is buying because his present supplier is solving problems for him. Maybe new problems have surfaced that aren’t being resolved. So try to find how your product or service can solve the problem better.
Look for clues
Sometimes a prospect’s dissatisfaction is indicated by a pause or no comment at all. It’s a good idea to ask questions when a prospect becomes silent. Try to focus on the facts about what the current supplier is providing and where problems aren’t being solved.
Here are some possibilities:
- Technological weaknesses in the current supplier’s product may result in the prospect falling behind the industry leaders, resulting in lost sales and lost revenues.
- The current supplier’s delivery schedule means it’s impossible for the prospect to take advantage of certain market opportunities.
- The current supplier’s product or service presents a risk to the prospect that could translate into lost dollars or higher insurance premiums.
Pitfalls to avoid
Here are three pitfalls to avoid when selling against established relationships.
- Getting aggressive too early. Your prospect will probably be sharing your arguments with your competitor.
- Coming up with trivial objections. Trying to dislodge a competitor with a list of minor objections may backfire. Selling against established relationships is less about answering objections and more about making your prospect feel comfortable doing business with you.
- Giving up too easily. A well-established relationship may take months, if not years, to sell. Look for incremental victories, dig in for a long siege and keep on going.
Accept the challenge
Some prospects look at changing suppliers the same way they look at divorce — they’re not going to do it unless you can convince them why your product or service will make things better for them.
Here are eight strategies that may help you get a prospect to look beyond a veteran supplier and consider your product or service:
- Be unique. Try to offer something the present supplier can’t. Distinguish your company, product or self in some quantifiable way. The best strategy to dislodge a present supplier is to offer uniqueness or differentiation.
- Do a competitive analysis. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the present supplier may help you capitalize on your strengths. Try to get the prospect to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in the products or services being purchased now.
- Identify problems that are not being resolved by a present supplier. Prospects become customers when you can solve problems for them. So a key task in replacing present suppliers is to create interest by identifying problems that are important to prospects and showing that you have the ability to solve them.
- Try to appeal to the prospect’s sense of fairness. Acknowledge the existing relationship but ask for a fair appraisal of your product or service. A tight economy may put the strongest buyer-seller relationships in jeopardy.
- Consider the possibility of turnover. Sales based on relationships are the most volatile of all. If your competitor has established a relationship with a customer and that customer retires, gets promoted or moves on to another company, the relationship leaves with him or her. Be ready if that happens.
- Try to build your own relationship. Different prospects have different expectations as to what a buyer-seller relationship might mean. Even the strongest relationships may weaken over time. Emphasizing professionalism and product knowledge may help you get a relationship started.
- Consider the prospect’s personality. Is he or she ambitious and on the lookout for value added products or services that might enhance promotion possibilities? In this situation, the relationship is the value-added component that tips the scales in your favor.
- Stay on track. Be relentless when selling against an established relationship. Stay with a plan and call on the prospect regularly, despite the number of times you hear the words “satisfied with my present supplier.”
Adapted from the book Value-Added Selling: How to Sell More Profitably and Confidently by Competing on Value, Not Price by Tom Reilly, President of Tom Reilly Training Inc., a sales training and consulting firm.