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How to Win a Prospect Who is Close to Choosing a Competitor

If you start to feel like you’re going to lose a prospect to one of your competitors, don’t let the deal flop. It’s time to be proactive.

Here’s the scenario: You’ve been working with a prospect for a few days, and they’re trying to make a decision on whether to buy a particular product from you or from your competitor. You find out that they are strongly leaning toward buying from your competitor, and you’ve got one last shot to bring them over to your side. How do you handle it?

Don’t jump right to the discount.

Your first reaction is often to say, “At what price would we have a deal?” or, “What would it take to earn your business?” Avoid the urge for a few reasons:

  • You don’t know that it’s about price: Don’t jump to price when you haven’t determined that price is the issue. It could be selection, location, relationship with the other business, timing, available service agreement… so don’t assume better pricing will earn you the business.
  • Offering a premature discount will damage your credibility. It will make the customer wonder, “Why didn’t I get this discount the first time I asked?”
  • You can’t be profitable if you give everything away.

Forget emailing…get on the phone.

Don’t handle this situation via email. Time is of the essence, and email gives you no control over the conversation or how long it takes. It also robs you of voice inflection, tonality, timing, and all the other important elements of a conversation. Granted, if you’re an excellent writer you might be able to get your point across with great skill via email, but most people are not and can’t. Pick up the phone and get a dialogue going.

Get your mind right.

Your purpose in calling your prospect is to discover what’s making them lean in the direction of your competitor. Your purpose is not to air out your grievances about all your time the prospect wasted, or about how big of a jerk your competitor is, or about how your prospect is ultimately going to get ripped off if she doesn’t buy from you. Put all of that negative BS out of your mind. It’s not going to help you. Desperation is your enemy. Drink some herbal tea, sit back in your chair, relax, be cool, and pick up the phone.

What to do on the call

  • Forget the sale: Enter this phone call with a consultative, empathetic tone. Do not try to sell anything… you need to approach this call in an understanding manner. Acting too eager will cause you to appear desperate, which will send the wrong message to your client. This is a case when being the prospect’s “trusted advisor” is most important.
  • Ask a lot of questions: The key to earning this prospect’s business is to understand why he is so attracted to the competitor’s product. Therefore, you need to find out the key elements of the competitor’s offering. A simple question to get the conversation rolling is, “So, what’s leading you in this (their) direction?”
  • Respect the prospect’s decision, and the competitor. It’s impossible to overstate how important this is:
    • “Jim, I completely understand why you’d be feeling this way and why you’d be looking so seriously at their offering. I’m sure they’re being competitive to earn your business.”
    • “They’re good people over there.”
    • “Most of my clients considered them at one time.”
    • “Most of my clients have considered them, too.”

Prime the pump before jumping in with a pitch. Pose a question that gets your customer thinking seriously about your offering again:

  • “Jim, the reason I wanted to talk with you is that I had an idea for you. What if we…”
  • “Jim, again, I completely respect your decision either way. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you of…”
  • “Jim, I understand that the competitor is being competitive to earn your business. However, if everything was equal, or at least ‘similar,’ wouldn’t you rather do business with me?” This must be said with all seriousness, do not laugh. You’re not begging the prospect, or making a joke. You’re legitimately asking them who they would prefer to work with if all else was equal.

Emphatically change the conversation. This is where the rubber meets the road. If you’ve done a good job to this point, you know why your client is thinking of going astray. You have shown respect for their decision, and you have opened their mind to the prospect of furthering your relationship. Now, come in with a new offer. Whatever that offer is, speak with conviction… you have an audience with the person on the other end of the phone, so be convincing. Here are some ways to change the conversation.

  • Propose a second meeting. Say to the prospect, “I’m thinking we might have missed a few things, and this is a big decision. Can we get together for lunch before you make it? It’s on me.”
  • Share other customers’ experiences. You’ve heard of the feel – felt – found method? Here’s a good time to use it.
    • “Totally understand how you feel, it’s tough to choose what gym to go to! Since there are a few of us in the city, lots of people go through that same decision process. The reason people usually choose us is…”
  • Offer an upgrade at a reduced rate. You might not want to discount the current offering, but offering a better value on a slightly more expensive product can create additional value to your prospect.
  • Throw something in. You should have a few things at your disposal to “throw in.” They should benefit the customer, as well as the business. For instance, if you run a gym and are competing for a client, throw in 20 free guest passes, or a free gym bag and t-shirt that advertises your name. Or, throw in 5 free visits with a personal trainer. These things all benefit the business in some way, but also benefit the client.
  • Suggest a different product that might represent a better value. Let’s say you’re an auto dealer and you offer two manufacturers. Ford and Lincoln. To this point, you’ve been primarily discussing a Ford Edge, but the prospect is seriously considering purchasing an Edge from a different dealer who is undercutting your price slightly. Because you’ve done a great job of building a relationship with this prospect, you’re getting a final chance. In this case, try to switch the conversation to a Lincoln, such as an MKX. Look for a reason to make this suggestion. For instance, perhaps the MKX has higher rebates that make it a better value than the Ford Edge. Maybe you have a “leftover” which is being discounted substantially. Or perhaps the lease payment on a similar Lincoln is only $25 higher than on the Edge, but the client is getting enough value for the additional investment that she doesn’t mind paying the extra money. Whatever the angle, this helps you get out of the “apples to apples” comparison. It changes the conversation from “Who’s giving me the best price?” to “Who’s giving me the best value?”
  • If all else fails, offer a discount if possible. If you’ve tried everything else, and can’t get anywhere, then maybe it’s time to discount your product in order to win your customer’s business. In this case, find a reason to offer a discount without making it feel like you’re “giving in.”
    • Say you’re an HVAC company working with a prospect who is considering installing a central AC unit. If the prospect is thinking of working with a competitor, suggest that there might be a “trade in” opportunity on their old unit and that you would need to inspect the unit in order to give them an accurate value. This will give you a chance to meet the prospect in person and make a stronger proposal.
    • “Jim, I hadn’t thought of this before, but do you currently have an AC unit? Great, they recently opened a trade in program where I might be able to save you some money by taking your old unit off your hands. This would bring the investment down dramatically and would probably be worth your while to look into, before making a decision on which company to use. Would you like to schedule a time for an assessment?”
    • This strategy works even if the old A/C unit doesn’t have any “real” market value, because you’re simply trying to create a reason to offer a better value without offering a discount. This strategy works with any type of equipment, cars, motorcycle, RVs, anything that might have tangible value.

It can be incredibly frustrating to lose business to a competitor… but it can be equally satisfying to recapture that business by employing the techniques in this article. If you’re building great relationships initially, you should get plenty of second and third opportunities to win business. For more information or to set up a meeting to discuss your sales goals, contact us at 603-953-5212.

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