In the current business climate, most small businesses are in a fight for survival. Sales are harder than ever to achieve, competition is pretty intense and there is pressure from buyers to reduce your prices (and your profits).
We all need to maximise the value we deliver to our best clients, encouraging them to buy more of our products/services and remain loyal to our company. It has long been recognised that getting more sales from our existing clients is the quickest and easiest way to boost business.
There is always a need to top up your list of happy clients with more new clients. This process can take some small businesses many months of selling against strong competition before it concludes. And there is no guarantee of success either – only one company will win, the rest will lose.
It is very dispiriting to find that at the end of all this investment, you are pushed into second place by one of your competitors. In sales, I always found second was the worst place to finish. Before you dust yourself down and launch into your next sales campaign, it is worth assessing some of the parameters that caused you to lose the sale.
Your prospect is a good source of valuable information – so when you do lose one of your sales opportunities do so professionally and leave the door ajar for you to make contact a short time later for a debrief.
It is not beneficial to conduct such a post-mortem with a view to apportioning blame for the loss on one or more people. Your aim should be to identify mistakes and ensure they aren’t repeated in subsequent sales campaigns.
Most of your sales campaigns, if you are selling to other businesses, will involve your prospect switching from an existing supplier for some reason. Make sure you find out the real reason because you should be on the lookout for any competitor that is beginning to struggle. This can manifest itself in many different ways, so you must be vigilant.
Maybe it’s a company whose products are dated and in need of revision, or a company where some of their senior staff have left, or simply one with a cashflow problem. Whatever the cause, it is important you detect when a competitor is struggling.
When you do, this is your signal to focus on their remaining clients. These people might be gearing up to change supplier or they might simply be uneasy about their current supplier and starting to realise they will have to look for a new supplier.
Depending on your marketplace, you might be able to persuade these people to switch to you without other competitors becoming involved. More likely though, is the scenario that procurement rules dictate they look at multiple suppliers before they can select a replacement.
When you focus in on your competitor’s clients, it is essential you can clearly define the extra benefits they will receive by switching to you. This will revolve around all the Unique Selling Points you can highlight that your products/services will bring the buyer. Your aim is to make the decision to switch supplier as easy as possible.
There will always be some resistance within your competitor’s clients to switching supplier. All the usual buying fears will come into play and to counter this you will need to have some sound business reasons as to why they should switch to you. Keep in mind the “golden rule” of selling – never knock the competition.
Once you have persuaded two or three of your competitor’s clients to switch to you, you should look to produce a success story describing their experiences in switching to you and the benefits they are now getting. If the switching process is shown to be low-risk by using the real experiences of your new clients, it is likely many others can be persuaded to join in the exodus.
The upshot is that your competitor is put in a much weaker position and won’t have the resources to resist your approaches to their clients. They will struggle to protect their shrinking client list.
- During every sales campaign, take some time to look at the current supplier (who is being replaced) to see if there is any evidence they might be struggling in the marketplace.
- When you detect a competitor is finding it hard to retain its clients, set up a sales campaign directed specifically at their other clients to capitalise on any unease there is across their client base.
- If procurement rules allow, consider introducing some special incentives to persuade them to switch to you without engaging in a long, drawn-out purchasing cycle. In some markets (for example, the Public Sector in the UK) all significant purchases must be made following a competitive tendering process.