Rarely do I meet with a group where I don't get the question "How do I sell against an entrenched relationship", or "how do I sell when the prospect says Old Jim really takes care of us!" In every sales position and territory you will always have "loyal customers" and customers that are "loyal to the competition". Typically, the strategies most sales people use to sell against "loyalty" are either:
1. Give up and go away...
2. Resort to "trying to sell them anyway"!
This can be a frustrating situation for both parties and one that requires a great deal of good judgment, communication and people skills to handle successfully. The reality is the loyal customer is the one we would all like to have. Let's explore the strategies most sales people employ and see if we can create a strategy that will get better results.
Think about option one for a minute... if you are trying to sell a prospect who buys on loyalty, what loyalty does "giving up" show?... None! Now, I am not suggesting here that you make excessive calls on a low value accounts (I can hear the wining already!) but for those that are worthy let's make a better effort. Your willingness to continue to work to earn the business may be a big part of them giving you a chance.
Think about option two for a minute... as soon as you get the comment "I'm loyal to Jim and get what I need from him...", if you start selling anyway, aren't you are ignoring the comment and feelings of the prospect altogether? It would seem like another bad choice clearly demonstrating our inability to listen!
With respect to both of these situations maybe the best strategy is to take a "non-selling posture" and be willing to "give up". A better response to the "loyalty objection" might be:
"Should I take you off my list and stop calling on you?"
This disarming statement takes all the pressure off and tells the prospect "you're listening" and willing to cooperate. It removes their natural defensiveness... the fight is gone!
Then, you are likely to get one of the following answers:
"Yes, take me off your list"
"No, I wouldn't go that far"
If they say "yes, take me off your list"... you have a couple of options. First agree and say O.K. but then you might ask:
"Have you made a decision to never look at other options?"
"If we had a product or service that could benefit you that "Jim" doesn't offer
would you like to hear about that?"
"Do you believe that their are no vendors out there that might offer something Jim
doesn't... if you don't look, how would you know?
These questions cause the prospect to think, but not until you remove their defensiveness.
If they answer "I wouldn't go that far (don't take me off your list), try responding with;
"Is there a reason you want me to keep you on my list?"
"If I keep you on my list can we agree to only talk about products that Jim doesn't sell?"
"If I were to keep calling on you, how could I do that in a way that would make you
comfortable and not hurt Jim?"
In both cases being willing to "give up" will be more productive and more likely to get you the results you are looking for. These responses also are logical, hard to say "yes" to and demonstrate that you are listening and validating their concerns. All good people skills that should get you a lot farther then what you are probably doing now.
Action Step: Practice roll playing these responses and try them the next time you are dealing with the "loyalty objection!" Pick three "stalled" accounts and ask the next time you call on them "should I stop calling on you?