Killer Sales Question #5

It's always nice when you can displace your competition.  It feels good!  Sales people are often paid more on an order when they replace a competitor and there are always accolades internally for sales people that do this.

However there is a danger that you will be used as a lever by the customer to get a better deal from the incumbent vendor.  And in your excitement of chasing the displacement you don't realize you are being used.  The result is that you spend a lot of time trying to win some business that you had no chance of getting in the first place.

So, what to do?  How do you find out where you stand?

Face the elephant in the room, look it in the eye and take it on.

"Mr Customer, you’ve already got a well known, reputable solution why would you change?”

Don't say anything more.  At this point you listen.  Intently.

Imagine you are the boss of the person you are talking to.  Would you be convinced to go to the expense and effort of replacing a system?

Do NOT immediately start agreeing and sympathizing with the person you are talking to as they tell you what is wrong with their current solution.  Ask more probing questions.  For example, "That sounds like a pain.  What's the impact on the business though?"  Keep asking this type of question until you understand fully their reasons for switching.

You'll know if they are serious or not.  If the answers are somewhat vague or seem insignificant relative to the cost of change, you have a potential problem.  If you think this is the case, tell the customer.  "Mr Customer, it sounds like you have been having some issues with your current solution.  But in listening carefully to what you are saying it seems to me that the problems don't justify the cost and effort to do a rip and replace.... what am I missing?"  Again listen carefully to the answer and make a judgement on what you are hearing.

There are 2 reasons why this is a really powerful sales question:-

  1. It will help you qualify the opportunity so you know whether to spend time on it
  2. If you follow the line of questioning you will gain knowledge about the impact of the current problems.  This will be invaluable when you are eventually negotiating the order and you are told that your solution isn't THAT important to them and they may just stick with what they have (they will say this)

Action: Before you go into a meeting to discuss replacing a system with yours, practice asking the question.. "Mr Customer, you’ve already got a well known, reputable solution why would you change?"