Anyone who’s ever worked in sales knows these common responses: “We work with a competitor,” and of course, “No.” Whether truthful replies or strategic conversation-enders, sales objections are just the nature of the business.
Many discussions with potential buyers end that way, especially after your prospect has a better understanding of your services and/or product. For many salespeople, “competitor” and “no” are the end of a conversation. But they can also become an opportunity to turn your discussion around.
These common responses are surmountable. It’s simply a matter of what you choose to do from there.
Before these words ever leave a prospect’s mouth, you can stymie them with preparedness and proactivity. Going into a meeting or conversation with a strategy is always the best way to approach a lead. What should you consider when devising your plan?
- What do you know about your prospect, their company, and their industry?
- What are your goals for the meeting?
- What are your prospect’s goals? What are they trying to accomplish?
- How does your solution fit your prospect’s needs?
- What do you need to learn about your prospects, and what questions should you ask?
- What are the next steps after your conversation?
You can’t replace preparation when you’re finally speaking to a potential buyer. Make sure you understand how your services/products will help your prospect.
Will your solution improve the quality of their business?
Will it help them save time or money?
Addressing these questions arm you to quickly address any objections you may encounter. So what happens if you do finally hear “competitor” or “no?”
Responding to “We already work with your competitor”
Any great salesperson will thoroughly understand what makes their company and solutions unique. This knowledge is critical to sales success.
In any conversation with a prospect, you must be able to quickly and effectively communicate what differentiates your business. It’s a story that’s especially important when a prospect says the dreaded words, “We already work with your competitor.”
Don’t immediately shut down the conversation when hearing this objection. Consider one – or a combination – of the following strategies:
- Turn to your benefits
First off, don’t speak poorly of your competition. Explain that your current customers have worked with your competition (and maybe still do), but that your company differs, and provides different benefits.“That’s good to hear – [competitor] is a great company. In fact, we share a lot of mutual customers. Companies that use both of our offerings often find that our product makes accomplishing [X goal] much easier since it has [unique benefit #1] and [unique benefit #2].”
- Look for opportunities without being aggressive
Perhaps there’s too much overlap between your companies to supplement a competitor’s offering. But you could say, “It sounds like you’re pretty well covered. Is there anything about your partnership you think could be better, or should be better?” A response like this gets the potential buyer thinking about areas in which their current vendor isn’t meeting expectations. If they’re honest to themselves, they may realize that there are ways that your company could help them improve.
- Think small and valuable
Big changes and commitments are scary decisions for businesses. They tend to take the approval of more stakeholders within a company, and thus, take more time. You can chip away at this thinking, however, by scaling back your expectations, you could propose a more comfortable opportunity that:
- Doesn’t cost much
- Offers them great value
- Doesn’t require them to end their partnership with your competitor
- Inquire about your competition
Ask your prospect about what they like best about working with your competition. This may seem odd, but if you’re patient, it will actually prompt your prospect to reveal something negative about their partner. This, of course, presents an opportunity to dig deeper.According to sales strategist Dan Fisher, “No matter what [your prospect says] in response, wait seven to 10 seconds. The silence will become uncomfortable – and that’s when the prospect will often offer up a negative comment or concern.”
Responding to “No”
It’s one thing to tell you they already work with your competition. But when a potential buyer comes out and just says “no,” it can end your conversation right then and there. That is if you’re not prepared for their response.
Those who are prepared understand that, with the right knowledge and experience, even a “no” can be turned into an opportunity.
Here are a few ways to approach this sales objection:
- Practical persistence pays off
Studies show that, on average, prospects say “no” to a salesperson five times before saying “yes.” Buyers make decisions emotionally, and their natural reaction will be to tell you, no, simply to avoid making a decision at all. But “no” on the surface could truly mean “maybe.” And with the right approach, you may be able to dig a little deeper to learn details that could help you make a sale.
- Balance curiosity and aggression
Without approaching a “no” with care, your persistence could easily harden a prospect’s objection. You don’t want to dog a potential buyer and seem too aggressive. If you frame your questions in a way that exemplifies curiosity instead, you could productively reframe your conversation. Remember, preparation will arm you with the right questions to ask in these situations.
- Discover new information
With the right questions – questions that get to the truth behind a “no” – you can gain valuable insight into your prospect and their needs. This will help you identify opportunities to meet their expectations – perhaps expectations your competition might not be able to meet. At the very least, you’ll build rapport with your prospect and set yourself up for opportunities in the future.
- Learning when “no” truly means no
For all of the steps, you can take to move beyond a “no” and learn if there is a small opportunity in your conversation, there are clearly times when a “no” is legitimate. Buyers already have their guard up when they know your ultimate objective is to sell them something. You don’t want to push them. Our rule of thumb is, if a prospect objects twice, respect their answer and graciously move on.
Direct and Honest: Pillars of a Good Salesperson
Regardless of where the conversation between you and your prospect takes place – in person or over the phone – you must be strategic. Understand how to prepare for your discussion, and how to open and close the conversation.