Unseating Competitors During Difficult Times

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As life and business gets back to normal, whatever that means, each of us is looking for more opportunities.  The goal for many is to make up for lost ground and to find as much business as possible between now and the end of the year.  A good place to find additional business right now is with an organization that had used your competitor and perhaps has grown weary of them.  Maybe they were thinking of switching but never got around to it.  Maybe they haven’t stayed in touch enough during the shut-in and they are indifferent to them.  Maybe you had tried over the years to disrupt that relationship or to woo them away to your company, but with little success.  Maybe their relationship was too strong, or their pricing model was tough to beat.  Maybe they simply had the relationship for a long time, good or bad, and so the customer simply stayed with them.  That actually happens a lot.  The devil they know is better than figuring out how to work with another company.  Whatever the reason or reasoning you’ve had in the past, now is the time.

There can be good news for you at the end of this pandemic.  You may or may not close the business today, but you can position yourself to open new accounts and build new relationships and you can do it right now.  Let’s discuss some action items that can help you do just that.  These are pulled from our key account program list and it just may be the best time to ever use them.

  1. Virtual happy hour, and not just any virtual happy hour.  Although everyone is tiring from on-line conversations, it is still important to do.  Let’s face it, we may be in this for longer than we think.  We can’t wait forever to go back to “normal” so we may as well embrace it in the meantime.  If you have someone you want to grow business with or bring a relationship to a new level try this:  arrange an on-line happy hour with at least a couple different individuals (the more people invited, the better.  Even if you have to plant a couple others on the line).  Make it for a pre-determined period of time.  Then, get their home address and tell them you are going to send them supplies for the event.  In a small package, you can send them everything they need to enjoy the call.  As example, you can purchase and send all of the ingredients to make bloody Mary’s.  Small bottles of vodka, a small bottle of mix, a small bottle of hot sauce, a pickle spear, and a celery stalk.  You get the idea.  Customers who have tried this have really impressed their customer or prospective customer and it’s a differentiator between you and your competitor, and it’s a lot of fun (for those that don’t drink, no worries.  Send a non-alcoholic version).
  2. Thank-you cards.  Everyone loves getting mail.  However, in this electronic world we now live in, letters are hardly ever sent or received.  What used to be common has grown to be somewhat uncommon.  Thus, sending a note in the mail can also be a difference maker.  It doesn't have to be long, but it should be a little personal.  Thank them for the business.  Thank them for a great phone conversation.  Send a note to tell them it was great meeting them over Zoom and look forward to the next time you speak.  Everyone knows and understands that sales is all about relationships.  The problem is, most people don’t truly understand what it takes to build one. 

    You will want to make sure the note card or thank you card is hand-written and not typed.  It is much more personal and thoughtful to do it this way.  You should also consider hand-addressing it and hand stamping it, no metered mail.  Another suggestion is to purchase a stack of thank you cards, or personal note cards, buy the stamps in advance and stamp all the envelopes.  That way, you won’t procrastinate sending the cards because you are waiting to buy stamps.  And, it acts as a trap.  Once stamped it will compel you to write the cards.

    Now, some worry that they don’t have the home address of the individual.  Don’t worry about that.  Simply send it to their place of business.  They’ll get it.  Maybe not this week, but they will eventually, and it will still pay off big time!

  3. Solve a problem for them.  Everyone wishes their lives at work or at home were easier.  If you can make someone’s life easier, they won’t easily forget it.  How do you know what people are struggling with?  Have conversations and get into their world.  A customer once told me he found out that someone he was trying to do business with had a son who was going off to college in the fall and needed to find a small refrigerator for the dorm room.  The prospect told my customer during a casual conversation that he was so busy, he was hoping he could find time to do the research and purchase the fridge.  My customer saw the opportunity.  That night he did some quick research and came up with a few different choices that were rated high by consumer’s and not too expensive.  He sent the findings to the prospect with a note that read something like this: “Joe, I hope you don’t mind but I had a few minutes last night and found myself curious after our conversation about what miniature fridges actually cost.  That led me to poking around and I came up with this information.  I don’t know if it is what you are looking for but thought it might help”.  You know what?  It worked.  The man was so impressed with the selfless gesture he welcomed him into a meeting later that month. 

    Other examples we’ve heard or helped with:  Find information that makes their role easier.  It could be a tool, an idea or even an interesting article that helps them with a familiar situation.  Find information on a potential new customer for them and send it to them.  Suggest fixes you may have heard from others for situations they share with you, even if it has nothing to do with your services.  Introduce them to someone else that can help them in some way (If you can find a way to refer a prospect business, wow.  You’ll be a hero).  Think outside of the box and try to think about what could help a prospect, or a customer, with their role.  It can make the sales cycle with them much shorter if you hit on the right solution.

  4. Find other ways to prospect.  Usually, and this has been true even before the pandemic, salespeople pick only one or two ways to reach customers.  Many salespeople have shared with me that they make phone calls and send out emails only.  Maybe they also went to an occasional networking event in the past.  In order to truly ramp up our chances of opening new accounts or unseating a competitor, we have to have more arrows in our quiver than that.  You may need to send out new LinkedIn invitations daily and follow-up with those that you connect with each week.  You may need to ask your good customers on a regular basis for others that they know that you can potentially help (a pro-active referral request).  You may need to write articles, like this one, to find or attract others that you would not normally meet.  You can even consider other forms of social media that you have never tried or a live lunch at an outdoor restaurant now that it is allowed.

Unseating a competitor, growing existing business and even finding new opportunities is a difficult task.  But, this may be the best time in our history to get the attention of someone you’d like to speak with.  Many are still at home and that means they probably are more available than ever before.  They aren’t busy at the office or stuck on a job site.  They aren’t necessarily getting handed projects left and right because times are slower.  They are more willing to speak with you because they finally have the time.  One thing is for sure, this won’t last forever.  At some point, we will return to some semblance of “normal” and things will get busier once again.  They will once again be difficult to reach and not have time to speak with you.  Take advantage of this time, perhaps using some of the suggested strategies outlined here and maybe, just maybe, you’ll unseat that competitor and end the year with a bang!