January 6th, 2013
Four Open Doors
We offer you a Guest Blog this week:Great idea’s to open 2013: Ken Thoreson
For all the confidence and poise they possess, sales reps can be paranoid individuals. Nearly every rep I’ve ever met is constantly worried that they aren’t doing enough for their customers, and that the competition is looming just around the corner, waiting to pounce at the first sign of dissatisfaction.
I wish I could say that fear is an overreaction, that your accounts are probably safer than you realize. But that would be a lie. The truth is, your competitors are always looking for an opening to steal your business. Fortunately, knowing where to look for potential weaknesses can help you seal off those openings.
Here are four critical Open Doors in sales – entry points likely to leave your accounts vulnerable. As you read, think about which doors could be open on your accounts, and figure out what you have to do to shut them.
The First Open Door: Changes in your Customer’s Business
In all likelihood your buyer’s business isn’t in the same place it was when you first sold to them. With each change to your buyer’s business and their market comes a new opportunity for your competitors to sneak in and steal your account.
To close this door, ask yourself these questions:
- How has my customer’s business changed in the last year? How might it change in the next year? Are my products and services delivering at least as much value as before?
- How are my customer’s needs changing as a result of expansion, contraction, etc.? Does the customer know my solutions are flexible?
- If your customers are reviewing their purchases and considering alternatives, do they know you offer alternatives, or could an outsider use that as an opening?
Second Open Door: Relationship with the company
You might have a great relationship with your contact. But the most important relationship isn’t with a single person, it’s with the company. What would you do if tomorrow your contact wasn’t there anymore? Would that account still seem safe?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Who was involved in the decision making process to hire me? When was the last time I spoke to them? If they could hire me, they could just as easily hire my competitor.
- Who would take over if my primary contact disappeared? What’s my relationship with that person?
- Do I have feedback from the people who actually use my product or service?
- Who’s affected by the results of my product or service?
The Third Open Door: Service after the sale
It’s easy to overlook back-end service when you spend so much time getting new assignments. But doing so can lead to small cracks and problems a competitor could exploit. Ask yourself:
- Are we getting the fundamentals right (deliveries, invoices, etc.)?
- Who gets the first call if there’s a problem with my product or service?
- Can customers, and other stakeholders reach me in an emergency? If they can’t, your competitor will likely get the call.
The Last Open Door: Price
This is easily the largest one, but also the easiest to notice. The best advice is to be proactive when it comes to price. Engage your customers in a conversation to let them know why you’re charging what you do.
To check if this door is open, ask yourself:
- Do I know my competitor’s current pricing?
- What would I do differently if I knew my customer had received a proposal from a competitor?
- Does my customer understand my value proposition? Could my customer explain it to his or her boss right now if asked?
These don’t cover every possible way in, and yes, your competitors will still steal your customers from time to time. But by asking yourself these questions and acting on the answers, you can make it sufficiently difficult for your competition, to the point that they seek out easier pickings instead.
Michael Boyette is the Executive Editor of the Rapid Learning Institute Selling Essentials e-learning site and Editor of the Top Sales Dog Blog. Contact Michael via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect via Twitter