by David Jones
Consultative selling training experts hear all the time from salespeople that the most difficult hurdle they must overcome occurs when the customer already has a well-established provider. The customer and provider have worked together over a long period of time and the customer has, for the most part, been satisfied with the relationship and with the product/service. Is there any way for you to leap this hurdle and get some of the business?
The first step is to begin the conversation… But cautiously. If you are too pushy or try to unseat your competitor too aggressively, your customer will often reject you out of hand.
Do your homework so you understand the customer’s needs and know your competitor’s product well. What does your product do that the competitor’s does not? Can this give you an advantage with the customer? Is it an edge that will support the customer’s success?
Then ask questions that are likely to lead you to an opening. Stick with open-ended questions so you don’t box the customer into too easy an answer. Try something like: Is there anything that is not exceeding your expectations? What would it take for you to consider doing business with us?
All the while, you should be developing other contacts within the company. Though it may be tempting to climb the hierarchical ladder of power, be careful not to burn bridges. Often, it is the lower level employee who has enough influence over buying decisions (or at least introductions). It is helpful to build relationships at all levels but don’t openly snub your early contacts for those with a superior position.
If necessary, settle for a piece of the business. If the only way you can become a vendor of choice is to provide only a small part of the service, grab the opportunity. This is the way you can prove yourself and your value and earn the right to a larger relationship.
Stay in touch but beware of becoming annoying. This is a matter of pacing your outreach and of tuning in to your instincts. Slow down if you’re getting a bit of a cold shoulder and find ways that each touch point brings value from their perspective.
Finally, keep at it. In the long run, perseverance is what pays off. If you maintain the connection, there will likely come a time when your competitor trips up or there’s a personnel shift and the account is wide open. Be there and be ready with your multiple contacts and your understanding of what the client company needs and wants.
If you take it slow and steady, understand the customer as well as the competition, and build your contact base, that hurdle may not be so high after all!
David Jones is a corporate coach, a successful business entrepreneur, and a guest blogger. He provides business executive coaching services to business owners. He specializes in coaching and he has expertise in business niches like consultative selling training, change management training, customer service strategies, and employee retention training. Contact David at [email protected] for more information.