Dealing with the Competition

We are in some very competitive times. People are hesitant to make buying decisions so businesses are making previously unheard of offers to get whatever slice of the market pie they can. If any of your clients tell you they’re considering doing business with the competition, you need to be prepared.

If you’re at the top of your game, you constantly act as if each and every client may consider making a change at any time. In other words: If you want to keep them as clients, treat them like gold. If you do, they’ll find it difficult to part with you and your high level of service even if the competition comes in with a better offer on a similar product.

If you’re prepared to hear an inkling of change, you’ll come across like the true expert you are rather than someone scrambling to keep their business. You’ll want to fight a clean fight with the competition, but never give up a client without a fight!

Upon hearing that your clients are thinking of changing vendors immediately ask for an opportunity to talk with them. If you’ve been serving their needs well and there aren’t any unresolved challenges this shouldn’t be difficult. In fact, they may feel they owe it to you. Your goal is to talk with them before they get emotionally involved with another sales representative.

Before your meeting refresh your memory on everything that has happened in the course of business with this client. Not to say you’ll be rattling off a litany of every order and every conversation, but you need to know what may be in the backs of their minds. It could be that the competition has touched a hot button that you were unable to provide in your initial sale.

Also, study the competition’s offering. Be certain your client is comparing products or services “apples-to-apples.” Even though there are many competitors in every industry not all of them provide product information in a specific manner. It can be confusing to anyone and your job is to help your client see that they’re making a true comparison. If your business is slow, consider using some of your down time gathering information on your two or three top competitors and verifying the true comparisons yourself. Every product has its strengths and weaknesses. You not only need to know theirs, you need to know what they see as your product’s weaknesses.

Formulate a strategy to keep the client’s business or to win them back. Be prepared to remind them that by switching, they’re not only changing brands but they’re losing whatever you, personally, have brought them–your expertise, advice, perhaps some leads for their own business.

Never, I repeat, never knock the competition. You can suggest your clients check references and do their due diligence when it comes to the product, but never knock another salesperson or product. With the way things run in business cycles, you may one day be on the same sales team or working for the same company as that person.

Don’t ever act as if you’ve lost the account or that you’ve given up. Even if there’s no changing their minds, offer to stay in touch in case they have questions or concerns in the future. Many a salesperson has regained a client after only 30 or 60 days when they realized they weren’t getting what they thought they were. Never put yourself in a position where the client thinks you’re going to say “I told you so.” Maintain your attitude of servitude in all client (and non-client) situations. It will serve you well.

This information is copyrighted by Tom Hopkins International, Inc. for reprint permission, contact Judy Slack (judys@tomhopkins.com).

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