Your lead has just told you that they already work with one of your competitors. Game over, right?
Wrong. Seasoned sales experts will tell you that having a lead who buys from a competitor is actually a good thing: it means they already know how useful your product is. Now, all you have to do is show them why your version is better than the alternative.
Remember that only 2% of sales occur in the first meeting. That means 98% of sales are made after time has passed and trust has been built up, so be persistent. Just because someone has bought from your competitor doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to change.
But how do you do it? Here are 4 general strategies that every salesperson should know.
#1: Never downplay your competitor–it’s insulting to your prospect.
Imagine if you just purchased a great new sports car, the one you’ve been dreaming of for years. You’re proud of your decision, even if you feel like it might have been a little irresponsible.
Then the car salesman from another dealership tells you that your beautiful new car is a lemon, and one of his own cars would be far better choice.
My guess is you won’t respond with gratitude. You’d feel insulted and annoyed, thinking this salesman just doesn’t understand the appeal of your previous purchase.
People like to have their decisions validated. Instead of telling your prospect that their choices were bad, you should build up their confidence. Explain that they made a good choice, but that they can do better with your own product.
Insulting their past choices won’t make them like you, and it certainly won’t make them excited about making another purchasing decision.
What to do instead:
Once you’ve established the reason your prospect chose your competitor in the past, you can redirect their attention to your own strengths. For example, they might tell you that the competitor was cheap; yet your product is a higher quality alternative. Perhaps the competitor is known for having a wide variety of solutions, yet your own company offers a more personalized service.
Instead of competing based on the strengths of your competitors, focus on your unique benefits. Compare apples to oranges so that the differences can’t be quantified or easily dismissed by your prospect.
#2: Prove that you know what the competition has to offer.
The first step to making a sale is establishing trust. If someone is going to trust you enough to give you their money, they need to see that you know what you’re talking about.
Simply telling someone that your product is better isn’t very convincing, and your lack of knowledge will make you look incompetent. However, if you know all the pros and cons about your competition, you’ll be able to give a well reasoned argument in favor of your own products and services.
More importantly, you’ll be able to validate their previous purchasing decision and motivate them to make a new choice.
#3: Explain that the competition is good, but for a different reason.
We’re not talking about a smug, back-handed compliment here.
Maybe your competition offers low-cost alternatives to your high-price solutions. Saving money is great, you tell your client, but when it comes to quality, there’s a big difference between you and the other guys.
You might say…
“Company X has a low-cost offer that works for a lot of low-level users, but for people like you who need these services often, it makes sense to invest in a more powerful alternative.”
“Company Y was really meant to serve general consumers in the marketplace, so it’s easy to use. Our company focuses specifically on accounting firms like yours and offers more utility.”
#4: If the prospect uses your competitor often, that’s good news.
Don’t get discouraged. It means that they have the potential to become a big customer, and since they use the product or service often, you already know that they fully understand the benefits of what you offer.
More importantly, they’re likely very familiar with the down-sides to your competitor, and as long as your criticisms of that company are accurate, the prospect will have to agree with you based on their own personal experience–creating a relationship built on mutual understanding that can ultimately lead to a sale.
This is when it’s especially important to know the downsides of your competition. For example…
“A lot of their users have a hard time dealing with X because of the way their software is built. Do you run into that problem, too?”
If it’s a genuine criticism, your prospect will feel that you’ve done your research and start to think of their current provider as a source of trouble more than a solution.
Dealing with Specific Situations
Here are a few common arguments you might hear from a potential customer–and the responses that will help you land the sale.
“Company X has more features.”
Point out that most of the time, a multitude of features don’t really affect the core value of the product or service. What matters most is how well the company handles their core competency; show the customer that this is where you excel.
By focusing more on the key aspect of your business, your company isn’t distracted with all the little extras that competitors try to tack-on.
“It just comes down to price for us.”
No purchasing decision is really based on price alone. If a competitor is offering a cheaper service, see if you can offer a more personalized service that will work better for the client than the off-the-shelf solution that doesn’t always work.
More importantly, show the customer that the comparison based on price ignores some of the key differences in value offered by both companies. If you compare two companies based on price, it’s only because you can’t see any qualitative difference. Make sure the customer has more than price to compare the two.
Point to higher quality materials, better expertise, higher statistical success, or even your corporate culture–anything to distinguish yourself in a way that is irrelevant to price.
“I’ve never heard of you guys before, and our provider now has been in the business for decades.”
Don’t be shy about being new. Plenty of amazing companies are relatively young. (Just consider all the powerhouses that have developed out of the fairly recent internet revolution.)
Being a new company has its benefits: you’re less likely to have conflicts of interest, you are still eager to prove yourself, and you have a fresh perspective.
Point out to the customer that although your company is new, many of your employees have been in the business much longer. Don’t be afraid to point out that new companies are founded because the old ones aren’t solving certain problems: there was a gap in the services of your industry, and you were created to fix that.
Overall, the most important thing you can do is stay informed. Not only should you learn about your competitors, but you should learn what your company is capable of. Are you able to offer a potential customer some personalized services? Will your company be willing to extend a temporary discount for new customers?
The more you know, the more you can accomplish.