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Wouldn’t it be great if you won every sales opportunity you found? Sadly, life’s not like that and you’ll inevitably lose some opportunities to an incumbent supplier.

If the customer comes out and tells you that they’ve chosen your competitor and signed on the dotted line, you have a limited window where you can keep the relationship positive and keep the door open for future conversations. The customer probably doesn’t want a lengthy conversation about why they should choose you at this point, so while you can use these responses and prompts as guidance, if the customer makes it clear they want to end the conversation, respect their boundaries to avoid burning a bridge.

1. “I see. Do you have a contract with them?”

If the prospect is locked into a contract and you truly believe switching is in their best interest, you have a couple options. Help them off-set the costs of breaking it early by giving them a discount or showing them the ROI of the switch. Alternatively, find out when their agreement expires, and let them know that you’ll reach out again a month or two before that date.

2. “I see. What results are you getting?”

There’s always room for improvement. Once the buyer tells you the return they’re currently seeing, you’ll know what you’re up against.
Imagine your prospect says the recruiting service she’s using reduces average cost-per-hire by 30%. You might respond, “Clients who have switched to our firm from your current one typically drive down their average CPH by a further 10%. Would that have a significant impact on your hiring budget?”
If she says no, she’s probably not the best fit anyway.

Alternatively, you can offer your help in improving their existing strategy … no strings attached. Say, “That’s great. I have a few tips that have helped my customers get their CPH even lower. Would you be interested in setting up another call to hear them?” Once you’ve earned her trust and gratitude by helping her, she’ll be far more receptive to your pitch.

3. “Ah, yes. We have a few clients who used to work with that vendor. Tell me, have you experienced any issues with [common vendor pain point]?”

This is a similar tactic to number one — but it pulls at pain points a bit more. If you choose this response, always use challenges you’ve verified with several of their former clients.
If your prospect confirms they’ve experienced similar issues, resist the temptation to talk badly about your competitor. Instead, focus on the solutions your product/service can offer instead. This keeps the tone positive and future-focused.

4. “Is your contract up for renewal anytime soon?”

It’s best not to waste your prospect’s time or yours. By asking whether their contract is up for renewal soon, you can gauge whether or not there’s any reason for the conversation to continue. If they’ve just signed a two-year extension, they’re likely happy with the provider and unable to change vendors for the next 24 months. This is a good example of where a single question can tell you all you need to know.

5. “Okay, I appreciate your time speaking about [Product] over the past couple of weeks. Would you mind if I made a note in my calendar to reach back out to you again in [a quarter; 6 months; a year] to see how things have been going?”

At this point in the conversation, the customer might have made it clear that they’ve signed on the dotted line, and that they aren’t interested in purchasing anything from you or your company at this point. But it can’t hurt to try to keep the door open.
Use this response to keep up a friendly relationship, to establish yourself as a conscientious salesperson, and to keep the lines of contact open. If the customer agrees, when you follow back up in the future, use it as an opportunity to hear how they’re doing in their personal and professional life, and to establish yourself as an ally, before diving back into another sales pitch. At that point, you can use the first several responses on this list to see how they’re finding working with a competitor — and if they might be interested in switching.

There’s a silver lining to hearing the “we already use Competitor X” objection: It means that half your work is already done. After all, you don’t have to educate your prospect on their problem … you just need to show them why your product is the best fit.

Are you or your clients struggling to overcome incumbent competitors?