We’ve all had customers who threaten to leave if we raise prices.

I sure hope you’ve been following my series on this, because I’ve been looking at questions you have to ask yourself when a customer makes such a threat.  (For the questions we’ve covered in depth already, I’ve provided links to those posts at the end of this post).

Today, let’s look at Questions 5 and 5 ½:

What is the reason behind the customer saying they may quit buying from you?

How do you know this?

Have you asked them?  More importantly have you asked the user of your product, not just the company buyer who buys it?

Too many times a buyer will throw out a reason why they’re going to stop buying from a particular salesperson.  Sometimes the reason is real, but other times it’s merely an easy excuse.  The only way you can know for sure is by asking the person or groups who use what you’re selling.

If you don’t know what the issue is, how can you respond to it?

Many times I’ve found the reason is not what the salesperson initially thought it was.  This is why it’s so important to ask — and ask quickly.

For some salespeople, this is much harder than it should be. WHY?  Because they’ve never taken the time to develop the relationships with the people and departments that actually use the product.

It’s pretty hard to get good information out of someone you don’t even know.

So, you need to know the reason the customer says they may quit buying from you — and you need to look closely at how you know this.  Be discerning and curiously investigative so you can get to the heart of the matter.

Never for a moment should you accept any piece of information you hear from a customer as being 100% factual.  Everything needs to be verified. The beauty is in the verification process.  It’s at this phase where the really good information comes out.  The best way to verify information is by simply asking the customer to explain what they mean.

If after you’ve asked them to explain more and you still have some doubt, then wait until later in the conversation and then bring the topic back up again. Does their current answer jive with their former answer?

My focus here is in showing you the importance of truly understanding the real reason the customer is potentially going to stop buying from you. When you understand the real reason, then you can understand how to respond.

Your objective at this point is to take the reason they’ve given you and frame it in a question around what you understand is one of their biggest needs.

An example of this might be a customer who says they’re going to stop buying from you because another supplier can deliver in smaller quantities — meaning there is less money tied up with inventory.   Knowing this is the reason, you may be able to compare it to a key issue the customer has shared with you in the past of the cost of having to halt work due to a lack of inventory.

In earlier meetings, you learned how anytime they have to stop work, the additional costs they incur are astronomical.   Knowing this you can then pose back to the buyer the question, “How much risk are you willing to incur if you have to halt work compared to some minor savings with inventory?”

What you’re doing is allowing the customer to see the risk.

Your objective is to find out the real reason for the potential change and be able to respond quickly with information the customer may not have considered into the equation.

Will you always be successful?  Not always, but unless you try, you will never know.  Even if you do lose, you still will have benefited from learning new information from the customer. This will help you with both that customer and other customers in the future.

Just as I promised, here are the links to the other questions we’ve explored so far:

How do you know they have even started the process of finding an alternative source?

How much will it cost the customer to switch suppliers?

Can the new supplier even handle it?

How secure is the new price they say they can get?

Copyright 2011, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog.

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