Too many salespeople move on as soon as a prospect utters these words, accepting the idea that they can’t overcome them. Big mistake.
“I’m very satisfied with my present supplier.”
For some, it’s the end of the story. Other salespeople accept the challenge, realizing there are ways to overcome every sales objection. You can’t just walk in and expect prospects to end a satisfactory relationship with another supplier.
Here are 12 strategies that help:
- Don’t give up too quickly. A well established relationship may take months to sell against. Try to avoid getting aggressive too quickly. Look for incremental victories, dig in for a long siege and keep on going. Examine your market and stay abreast of new issues, trends or changes that may help you deliver more value that your prospect is now receiving.
- Do a customer analysis. Learn as much as possible about what’s going on in your prospect’s world. Maybe his or her satisfaction is based on false information or unfamiliarity with what’s happening in your industry. Thoroughly understanding the competition allows you to capitalize on your strengths, which may also be the competition’s weaknesses.
- Don’t count on relationships to get you the business. Relying on relationships to propel sales can be dangerous today. Today’s good friend may be somewhere else tomorrow or retired, demoted or transferred. The same conditions exist for your competitors who rely on customer loyalty to get them the business. You can get this business if you come across to prospects as a capable, knowledgeable professional who is customer-focused.
- Measure the relationship you’re selling against. Every business relationship goes through ups and downs. Even the tightest relationships are tested when things go wrong. If you refuse to accept the “satisfied customer objection,” you will be in a position to get the business when problems develop. A counter-proposal always looks much better after a competitor has made a mistake.
- Build your own relationship. Different prospects have different expectations as to what a buyer-seller relationship might mean. What is making them happy today may not do so tomorrow. The best way to encourage prospects to do business with you is to get in front of them frequently, no matter how much love they express for their present supplier.
- Ask for objectivity. Acknowledge the fact that your prospect has a relationship with a competitor. Then appeal to his or her sense of fairness by at least looking objectively at your proposals.
- Watch for the backlash of turnover. Sales based on relationships are the most volatile of all when conditions change. If a prospect retires, transfers or goes to a different job, be ready to move in quickly and establish a relationship with the successor.
- Recognize that there are prospects who are never going to buy from you. The reason may be as simple as the fact that the prospect’s sister sells for a competitor. No matter how great your selling message may be, a blood relationship usually trumps reason and logic. But you will never know about the sister unless you ask the right questions and develop an understanding of the situation.
- Build your own relationships. Start with the relationships you have with your current customers. Which ones have you developed relationships with who might give you references to other prospects? Would they use the “satisfied with present supplier objection” if a competitor approached them about you?
- When you meet with a prospect, develop the mind-set that you’re attempting to discover whether your competitor is meeting the prospect’s needs. If you can supply a need that the present supplier can’t match, factors like “satisfaction” tend to be ignored.
- Don’t overlook the value of a “small” order. If you’ve been calling on an account time and again but a competitor has a lock on the business, keep trying for even a small order. It gives you visibility with the prospect that may lead to a profitable relationship.
- Focus on results. If you want to replace a long-term competitor, try to focus on results. You do this by consistently focusing on solving the highest-level business problems of prospects. No product or service is excellent in itself. It’s excellent only if it fulfills a prospect’s needs. Understand the prospect’s problems and develop solutions. No established sales relationship will stand up to that kind of sales approach.
Ted Barrows is the president of Barrows Associates, a marketing services and sales consultant firm founded in 1975 and based in Bristol, RI.