We are wrapping up our expansion of a post I did on questions you must ask yourself when one of your customers threatens to move their business to another supplier.

If you’ve been following along, you know we’ve gone through question 7 (links to previous questions are at the bottom of this post).

We have now arrived at the last questions:

What are you offering your customer that you know the “cheaper” competitor can’t offer?

How has the customer responded to this?

Too many salespeople and companies believe the way to win business is by trying to do the same thing competitors do —  but do it a little better.

Sorry, but doing it a “little bit better” isn’t going to win you much business in today’s economy.

To win business, you can’t just do something a little bit better, you have to do it a lot better — or even more so, do it completely differently.

Nobody wins in a price war. The vendors don’t win, and surprisingly enough, even the customers don’t win long-term.  (I’ll save that argument for another time.) The best approach to this is by going in a completely different direction.

This does not always mean you have to physically do or provide something completely different.  No, sometimes it is just a matter of how you position yourself with your customers.

An example I like to use is the food industry and, in particular, restaurants.

There are almost without exception a wide number of food options available to everyone, but people do not always gravitate to the absolutely lowest price provider.  Yes price can be determining factor but it is rarely the only factor, as there are typically many other items that come into play when deciding where to grab some food.

The fact that not every food establishment prices their offerings at the same low-price is a strong indication that it is possible to compete on other aspects beyond price.

As a salesperson, you have to look for the real reasons why a customer is going to make a decision. Don’t base it on what you think the criteria is; it must be based on what the customer thinks.

Providing a customer with an alternative delivery method may seem appealing to you, but it might mean nothing to the customer.  On the other hand, having you provide them with expert information and support could be something they see as significantly different than what a competitor might provide.

One of the best ways I’ve found to find things your competitor can’t offer is by observing and talking to not just the customer, but also the user.  Often the user has different expectations than the buyer and, unfortunately, the salesperson too often doesn’t take the time to discern those different expectations.

Your minimum goal is to be able to identify at least 3 significantly different things you can offer your customers that you know your competitor can’t provide.

Ideally, you will be able to identify 5 things, as this will provide you with enough of a selection, knowing your customers will not find value in everything you offer to them.

An example of this we can all relate to is in the area of cell phones.

AT&T offers customers an experience that allows their customers to do multiple tasks at once on their smart phone.  This is something Verizon and their network does not allow.  On the other hand Verizon is able to offer to their customers a bigger network with fewer dropped calls than AT&T. (As their advertising claims.)  Both are examples of significantly different features which, depending on the customer, translate into a meaningful benefit.

Until you are able to identify these significant differences — including identifying how to get the customer to see value in them — you will find yourself being dragged into the low-price game.

If you really want to strengthen your resolve in facing a customer who threatens to switch, check out these previous posts:

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?

What is the reason behind the customer saying they may quit buying from you? How do you know this?

How long would it take for them to make the switch to a new supplier?

How will other people in the customer’s company respond if the decision is made to no longer buy from you?

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

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