It is ok to send your buyer to the competition. “But I could lose them for life. In fact, there was this one I referred to a competing bank because it had the service he wanted. He was so happy that to this day he still calls me for coffee. But that’s all I get. Coffee. I lost the deposits.” And that lamentation from a seller in my sales training class, paradoxically, sums up why it’s ok to you’re your buyers to the competition.
First and certainly foremost, the role of the seller is to solve the buyer’s problem. Many sellers find this difficult to swallow. My job is to sell they say. Yet a sale is the result of a process. And the seller is likely to be more successful controlling a process, not a result. And that process is solving the buyer’s problem. We buy to solve a problem. Identifying and solving the buyer’s problem results in a sale. Sometimes, as in the example shared, that sale happens on the competitor’s side but it’s not an own goal you will have scored-it’s an investment you have made.
How to respond to customers with competitors
Next, to be able to solve the buyer’s problem, means that you understand your market well. Not just your product or service. In the example shared the seller’s bank had the service but the client had repeatedly complained about it. Part of the investment the salesperson made is that he now entrenched his position in the buyers’ mind as the go-to person in matters banking. The coffee dates are not merely thank you offerings; they are opportunities to solve more problems for the buyer (easily in-house this time), get to know him better and get referrals.
In addition, it is not practical to expect that your product is a panacea to all your buyer’s problems. It’s encouraged to believe that and it’s also encouraged to remain alive to the fact that every product has a limitation-even yours. Buyers know this; the term ‘seek a second opinion’ isn’t limited to medical advice only.
How to attract customers to competitors
Sparing them the trouble of finding this out for themselves creates an emotional connection. Otherwise, they feel cheated, detaching from you completely in the process. The emotional connection created is the kind that several coffee dates later leads to the ‘lost buyer‘ casually commenting, “This bank you sent me to is getting sloppy (remember they are just as human as you are). They have messed up two money transfers for me.” And guess who’s there to solve that problem? YOU. This connection is another reason why you forgive your favourite seller when he messes up, justifying it with, “It’s not like him. I know he’ll correct it.”
Send your buyer to the competition; it’s OK
That you sent the buyer to the competition to solve his problem doesn’t lose you a sale; it makes you a customer. It gains you trust, confidence and integrity. And, unless your selling style is hit-and-run, these are relationship traits that engender long term relationships and sustainable sales.
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