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Dialog 2 : "We're Happy with Our Current Supplier"

Scenario

You're making cold calls and your prospect cuts off your conversation by saying, "We're happy with our current supplier." That response might mean, "I have a supplier; that issue has been dealt with and I have ten other issues on my desk that haven't been dealt with yet." It might also mean that the prospect is 110 percent satisfied with the present supplier (highly unlikely) or that the prospect is 51 percent satisfied with the supplier (more likely).

Strategies

You'll try to determine how satisfied your prospect is with the current supplier and why, using a Satisfactions strategy. When you ascertain what he values most, you'll reference those issues in your dialog.

Figure 3.2 We're Happy with Our Current Supplier.

You'll also recognize the difficulty in pulling a client away from a current supplier. One way to address that issue is with a technique called the Larger-Loyalty strategy. You'll recognize that building a relationship often requires many small steps taken over a long period of time. When necessary, you'll employ techniques such as the Backup strategy to help build a long-term relationship as you court this prospect.

Be Careful

Never say anything offensive about your competition. It will certainly make you look bad, and it might insult your prospect if it is perceived as a criticism of his buying decisions.

Insights

"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
—George Bernard Shaw

Further Considerations

Oftentimes, change takes place slowly. You may have to court prospects over a long period of time before they will make a switch. Be sure that a given account is worth the effort and that your energies would not be better spent elsewhere.

Consider keeping in touch with prospects you're pursuing by sending different sales tools every now and then. For example, a relevant article, promotional premiums, or even an attractive postcard with a message such as "I'm still seeking your business!" are all ways to let the prospect know that you'd like his business.

What the Experts Say

Research shows that if a frog is dropped into a pot of hot water, it will automatically jump out. However, if the same frog is placed in cool water that is then heated slowly, the frog will not notice the change in temperature and ultimately the heat will kill it. Some business people are slow to perceive the changes developing in their environments and fail to make a switch when they should.

Consider e-mail cards, too. Visit http://www.bluemountain.com, http://www.awards.com, or http://www.ivillage.com (at the iVillage home page, look for "favorites"; click on "postcards"; then go to the "work" category).

Try to identify any of your customers who used to do business with a competitor. Prepare a list of them to give to prospects that you're courting. Or, see if any of them will give you a letter about why they're glad they made the switch. Such third-party testimonials make compelling sales tools.

Inertia is powerful and change is scary. What can you do to make your prospects feel safe about making a change? What practices could you employ to help them limit their risk? Start small? Offer guarantees? Do a free trial? All of the above?

What the Exemplars Do

Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's, had this to say about dealing with competition: "My way of fighting the competition is the positive approach. Stress your own strengths, emphasize quality, service, ... and value, and the competition will wear itself out trying to keep up."

Ask Yourself

  • Have I ever been persuaded to switch to another product or service after being brand-loyal for a long time? How and why did that happen? Can I apply any of those principles to my own sales presentations?
  • What are my personal competitive advantages? What unique qualities do I bring to my profession? How can I best convey that information to my prospects and customers?
  • Do I need to prepare some materials that will make my prospect feel more comfortable about making a change? Perhaps an explicit money-back letter of guarantee signed by the president of the company? Perhaps a simple one-page short-term contract to be used for an introductory offer?
  • Technology is causing rapid changes in the world of business and in the behavior and expectations of customers. How do those realities apply to my business? How can I incorporate this information into my sales presentation to make it more compelling?
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