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I had an interesting conversation on the phone during class the other day. This took place over the course of 20 minutes or so with the class listening in on the conversation. Here are some of the details I can recall.
I called on a prospect that was entrenched with another supplier. After asking and receiving his permission to speak we covered all the reasons why he liked his current supplier. At this point my goal was to pinpoint what was of importance or value to him. I asked if he was aware of the current recall of a certain part of equipment his supplier recalled. My intention was not to attack the supplier rather instead to be sure he was aware of a potential problem. He said he was aware and that the supplier had done a good job of handling the situation.
Rather than attacking that supplier (never down talk the competition), I chose another tact. I asked “If we could do a better job than your current supplier, would you be open to considering what we have to offer?” His initial response was no.
So again I asked more questions about how was currently doing business and kept coming back to the same question above in different forms.
“What would we need to do to have you consider us as an additional supplier?” The answer was still no I’m not interested.
“What is it that you look for in a supplier and if we could provide all those requirements would you be open to evaluating our products?” Again he responded with he was happy with his current supplier.
I asked if he had heard or had any experience with our company and he replied he had a bad experience with another competitor and therefore was leery of considering replacement or adjunct suppliers. We agreed that his experience sounded unpleasant and I reminded him that we were not that supplier.
He mentioned that one of his executives had an experience with us where he had to take his equipment in to be repaired, which was time consuming. I explained we now offered on-site service that would eliminate that problem.
I kept the focus of the conversation on him and what was of value to him and why. I used good old-fashioned curiosity rather than giving up.
After letting him go on about his current supplier for a bit, I asked, “What would we need to do to do business with you?” This question did the trick. He detailed all the specs of the type of equipment he was currently using and said our product would have to meet all the specs plus have a better price.
I started asking about the current amounts of equipment he had in use and how often he was buying new equipment and in what quantities. This gave me the
idea of the profitability to our company over the long run if we could get our foot in the door.
So I followed with “What specs would our equipment need to have for you to test or evaluate it?” He rattled off a dozen different things including specific amounts of memory, input-output speed and the ability to connect with his current storage system. Once the specs started pouring out I knew I had gained the opportunity I was looking for which was for him to be open to considering another or additional supplier.
So I took that information and asked my next question. “So what you are saying that if we had a piece of equipment that would meet or exceed those specs you would consider looking at it?” He came back with there would need to be no shipping charges. I said we would pick up the shipping charges.
He came back with he would need time to conduct the evaluation. I asked how much time. He said at least 30 days. I asked if 60 days would be enough time and he said plenty.
I summarized the conversation and the specs that were required in the equipment that he was going to receive and then set up a Sales M.A.P. (mutually agreed upon process) where we would configure the equipment and deliver it to him. I asked for his email so I could forward some detailed product specifications to him and said I would follow up with a phone call to be sure he received the email and to set up a time to drop off the equipment.
Learning to reframe situations in terms of what is important or of value to the other person combined with “If we could help you do it better, faster or less expensively” seems to make it harder for a person to say “no”. Add this with being interested in what the other person is saying instead of trying to interesting by telling why you think your products are better and you have a winning combination.