What can you do when a prospect says, “Thanks, but we have a strong relationship with another supplier and feel that we owe them our business”?
I love that question because it goes straight to the heart of what a truly great sales training program needs to be all about.
In my books and elsewhere, I have explained that the Action Selling system—the basis for my own sales training courses and sales coaching initiatives—is really a kind of instruction manual that tells you how to win genuine customer loyalty. And I have defined genuinely loyal customers as people with whom you have built such a strong relationship that they have stopped shopping among your competitors.
That kind of loyalty is the whole ball game. So when a potential client tells you, “I’m loyal to someone else,” that means one of your competitors has beaten you to the punch. As customer objections go, this is a lulu. What sales skills could possibly help you out of this pickle?
To whom is the customer really loyal?
Action Selling’s sales training programs teach that every objection can be tied to one or more of the customer’s 5 Major Buying Decisions, which are sequenced in this order: Salesperson, Company, Product, Price, and Time to Buy. In my experience—here comes some sales coaching—an objection refers either to the buying decision that you are hearing about or to a buying decision that precedes that one.
This is an important point because prospects who say, “I’m loyal to another supplier” appear to be telling you that they prefer a competitor’s company to yours. In Action Selling terms, you might think the objection has to do with Act 5, and that you are failing to “sell your company” effectively.
But wait, not so fast. Loyalty is a feeling far more likely to be granted to a person than to a company. The strong relationship this customer is telling you about may very well be with a salesperson from the competitor’s company. If so, the real problem is that the customer has a stronger relationship with another salesperson than with you. This isn’t an Act 5 problem at all. You need to back up.
Acts 2, 3 and 4 of the Action Selling system are where we Sell the Salesperson. In Act 2, we demonstrate interest in the customer and the customer’s company by asking questions about them. In Act 3, we Ask the Best Questions to understand the customer’s situation and often to help the customer understand their own unique needs. In Act 4, we gain agreement with the customer on exactly what those needs are.
The salesperson who does those three things best wins, plain and simple. What if you find that a rival already has done an excellent job? Then your only chanc e is to do a better job—again, plain and simple.
Because loyalty is so powerful, you may or may not be able to salvage this deal. Either way, focus on improving your sales skills in Acts 2, 3, and 4. Then next time it will be your competitor who hears, “Thanks, but we’re loyal to another supplier.”
Effective questioning is a critical sales skill for several reasons. First, our recent research shows that there is a direct correlation between the success of a sales call and the type of questions that the salesperson uses. On average, failed sales calls include 86% more close-ended questions than open-ended questions.
Successful Sales Calls Have 25% More Open-Ended Questions.
Second, your questions help customers make their first key buying decision, which is whether to buy you, the salesperson. Questions build rapport and demonstrate your interest in the customer. They uncover information about the customer’s needs, who to call on, the decision-making time-frame, your competition and how the customer will make a decision. When you ask the “best” questions, customers will view you as a consultant with their best interests in mind.
Third, questions help you manage the sales call. You can control the conversation and differentiate yourself from competitors by being the best listener.
But merely asking questions isn’t enough. You need to ask “The Best Sales Questions.” For example, asking questions that draw out needs for your product’s strengths can position you as the best or only solution for the customer’s needs.
Sales Skills – In The Field
Asking “The Best Sales Questions” allows you to uncover your customer’s real needs and meet them with the right solution. A sales representative from WESCO International, Inc., a $4 billion electrical equipment provider, used the Action Selling(TM) process to do just that.
Great questions helped the sales rep land a new account on the first call. By zeroing in on the key needs behind a contractor’s stated requirements, he was able to craft a bid that matched those needs exactly. He won the business (a $77,000 order) and opened the door for future opportunities.
Contact Action Selling to learn more about Sales Skills Effectiveness 1-800-232-3485.
About Duane Sparks
Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling. He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations. Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).
Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).