Sales Q&A #31 – Customer doing business with several vendors
Q. What do we do when a customer wants to spread the business between several vendors, even though I know we can provide better service?
A. If you are looking for a short, easy solution, there isn’t any. The solution to this, like so many sales problems, is a matter of a long term, consistent approach on your part. There is probably nothing you can say or do, in the short term that would impact this.
Clearly, spreading the business around between several vendors is the customer’s philosophical approach to purchasing. He/she probably has arrived at this approach through some combination of personal experience and/or executive direction.
Here’s a pretty effective rule for sales strategy: When your customer voices a firmly held position, do not attack that position. You’ll just harden their positions and make life difficult for yourself. Instead, go around that position.
In other words, retreat a bit, change the subject and look for an opportunity on the specific, rather than the general, level. Leave the philosophical approach unaddressed. Instead, show him why, in one specific opportunity after another, you are the best choice. Do that over and over again, and, hopefully, he’ll discover himself buying more from you than your competitors. He’ll never have to publicly change his position; he’ll just find himself acting differently.
That’s the most effective approach. But, that isn’t the only strategy. You may, for example, take a bit of a round-about approach to the issue. Realize that you have to influence the customer to change his opinion, to change his beliefs, and instead to believe that doing more of his purchasing from one vendor (you) is a better idea. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you were him, what would convince you to change your beliefs?
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Once you uncover your customer’s priorities, then you can work to fulfill his expectations in that regard. Over time, show him by your company’s performance and your attention, that your company gives him everything that he wants.
At some point, a number of years down the road, when you have been successful on the item by item basis, it may be helpful to have a discussion about doing more business with you.
This is one of the most difficult sales situations for the sales person, because the customer’s deeply held values prevent you, at least in the short term, from increasing the business. Before you decide to spend the time and effort to try to change the situation, make a cold-hearted, rational decision about the likelihood of you being successful in this account. It may be that your time is better spent in other accounts.
The decision as to which accounts to invest your time in is a critical part of every salesperson’s success. Learn a systematic way to make that decision in Chapter Six of Eleven Secrets of Time Management for Sales People. Learn more.
One of the greatest aspects of the sales profession is that there is always another challenge out there. You don’t sell them all. If you did, it would get boring, and the job would be done by someone with half of your ability. This is one of those challenges that may frustrate you for years. Take the long term approach, and determine to eventually succeed.
About the author:
Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level. You may contact Dave at Kahle Way® Sales Systems, 800-331-1287, or email@example.com.
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