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Losing to the competition...

Hi all,

I've got a situation I wanted some advice on. I did a demo yesterday for a director at a large account who was the influencer, not the decision maker... (mistake, I know)

He's on the IT side of the project, and hence, is leaning towards our competitor because they had a slightly better look and feel, which he thought would be easier for user adoption. Of course, being the IT lead, this would be his chief concern.

However, our solution is just as functional if not more so, and less expensive-- something a line of business manager or financial officer would appreciate and put more weight on...

Okay, my question is, whats the best way to get in front of the right people? Has anyone here been able to turn something like this around?

I've thought of calling the department manager directly, and attempting to get face time with her, but didnt quite know how to approach it...

Any advice appreciated.

Thanks. - by klozer
Tough situation. You could try to go over the persons head to the decision maker but then you risk a working relationship with that person. If it's someone you won't be working closely with then why not try it?

If you or your company will be working closely then just keep pushing the point that your results will be better and more cost effective up front and in the long run of the project, which his/her bosses would appreciate. If they have used you guys in the past to great results then bring up your track record with them. Point out that your firm is dedicated to making the project work. Order the guyís team some pizza. Get him some baseball tickets. I know I might get some flack for that idea but greasing the wheels never hurts and from a small gesture great rewards can flow

But in the end, sometimes they just don't buy your product. Like I said, tough situation. - by Thufir
Tough situation indeed... I appreciate the feedback.

Lesson well learned I suppose. But, really, if the project manager declines to introduce you to the decision makers, what can one do...?

I presume some of the vets on this board might've simply walked away from that type of selling situation... to them I say, bravo. - by klozer
Myself I like the direct approach.

I would call the manager and tell her that you have held a presentation for the IT-manager, but that you would like to present the qualities of your product to her as well.

If she is resistant and says that the IT-manager can fill her in, just tell her that your product is cheaper, as easy to use, but not as graphically appealing as your competitors product and just like any typical IT-director there is a risk that her IT-manager will like the graphically nicer one.

If you can in short words tell her that your product is as good and cheaper she will probably want to listen.
Everyone hates the IT-department anyway and we are all use to having to cope with their stupid ideas.

Well, good luck to you anyways. - by LookingDaniel
Is there anyway you can add an upsell product to the offer, or suggest a slightly different product that would require the project manager's attention. I guess I'm saying lookf for creative ways to get the IT manager and his boss to talk with you together. Going over the IT manager's head is pretty risky, and it's a small world. Why play with fire if you can instead make an intelligent suggestion that gets your foot back in the door in a new way? - by ToddR
"Looks can be deceiving, in fact, your interface engineers took that into consideration. While the other product looks like it will be adopted faster, your solution has the depth of features that keeps users productive in the system over time."

If both the IT manager and your decision maker have a moment, you'd like to share some new points that will increase adoption, lower overall cost of ownership, while improving bottom line results.

Of course, you'll want to talk with each person involved in the decision and make sure your product matches their points of interest.

If your IT contact wants ease of adoption, then show them how your product helps with that. Use new information to get your final decision maker back in the room. It sounds like you'll need to resell your benefits to each influencer in their terms, while working with a decision maker (who may keep influencer's focused.)

Best,

Justin - by hittjw
Early in your exploration it's useful to ask about the steps for getting funds released. This usually reveals the other people involved in the decision. The answer in the case described might be, amounts over x need to be approved by . . . At which point you ask, "When can I speak with them?"

This draws a 'don't go around me' type of objection. Whatever reason is given for you not being granted access, use it as the reason why you want access. It's important to get the support of the person in front of you so turn the objection around.

For instance, if the objection were "he isn't interested in the product. He's only involved in the approval" say "I'm sure he won't want to listen to a sales pitch. How does he decide whether to support something like this?”

Whatever response you get, use it to persuade the person in front of you to support your contact with his boss, CFO, or whomever you need to reach.

You might return to your appeal with something like, "It will only take about fifteen minutes and we can probably do it via telephone conference call. Can we try?"
Sometimes the answer remains no

If you cover this before your pitch or demo, you now have a choice. You can choose not to invest time in a presentation. If you don’t have access to the right people, it’s important to consider if you might be wasting your time.
We recommend not talking about the solution until all the issues and the decision making process are understood.

I appreciate the above may not help, this time around. - by Clive Miller
I am not involved in It sales however when I find a client would rather go with a competitor I ask why.What is it that you like about their product? Is it the product ? Is it the service? Is it the ease of getting what you ask?Is it the ease of receiving technical information or help?Is it the service after the sale?These should be excellant points that you provide. Any answer the client gives you reply, we did not cover that I am sorry this is what we do for you.

I am not a fan of the word cheaper however I ama huge fan of how much they will save going with your product. Often times it gets lost with a monthly savings I like informing them a total amount they will save yearly.If they save 1000 a month they save 12,000 a year not 1000 a month.

If they need a machine that costs 10 grand and I tell them they save 1 grand they are still 9 grand away. I tell them they save 12 grand they can buy that 10 grand machine.

You need the influencer to be on your side at this point since they are involved. - by rich34232
.....when I find a client would rather go with a competitor I ask why.What is it that you like about their product? Is it the product ? Is it the service? Is it the ease of getting what you ask?Is it the ease of receiving technical information or help?Is it the service after the sale?
I want to point out that the above is contrary to conventional selling wisdom. To ask a prospect those questions in that form merely REINFORCES the benefits that the prospect perceives in staying with the competition.

It's not my intention to concern myself with how another member sells, but I do want to point out the inadvisability of the above questions for newcomers to sales or for those that visit SalesPractice looking for ways to increase their results. - by Gary A Boye
You probably are correct for the new comer to sales to pull off asking those questions they will be in trouble. They will not know how to react or respond. I will make this statement, it does have the ability increase sales when used properly .I have used this with clients on a successful basis. The statement must be used in the total context. Leaving out this portion makes the statement that it is unadvisable correct.

These should be excellent points that you provide. Any answer the client gives you reply, we did not cover that I am sorry this is what we do for you. However add this to it, it now becomes powerful. These are questions informing the client that these are things he or she get from you and that you are very good at these things. It brings the focus and perception back to you the sales person in front of the client and not the competition.

I am not sure if it is unconventional or conventional I learned this from a sales person that was very influential with me. As in all sales methods it does not work all the time there is no magic pill. The sales pro needs confidence and have the attitude that they can ask any question that is worded respectfully and ethically. Then the sales pro must have the ability to bring any conversation and focus back to their proposal and presentation helping the client. There must be understanding of the client and knowing your competition and what they do not do well.

These should be excellent points that you provide.

The questions asked are based on principles that you deliver well and do give the client. The focus and perception is brought back to me (you if you are the sales person in front of the client).There is never a good time to ask a question that concerns something that you or your company does not do well. Of course that brings the attention back to your client. I would hope that any who is in sales knows and understands this concept. I control the questions which mean I can control the replies and how I respond to those replies.

What I am doing is bringing attention back to what I do for the client at all times.
 
 
 
- by rich34232
Gary I do understand your valid points and this is something that I did not learn until I had many years and understood what I was doing better. I also had a much better understanding of my client's motivation and moods,personality. All of this is invovled in knowing when, how, and where , and what to say. - by rich34232
Gary I do understand your valid points and this is something that I did not learn until I had many years and understood what I was doing better. I also had a much better understanding of my client's motivation and moods,personality. All of this is invovled in knowing when, how, and where , and what to say.
Of course, Rich, and you know I believe much of what you post is helpful and all in the right spirit. I post and comment with somewhat a purist attitude towards sales education. Sometimes all of us are guilty of not getting the right message across. In your post, the "rythym" of your questioning was right on, but I questioned sharply the questions themselves. Many newcomers might mistake the quality of the delivery of the questions for the quality of the questions. In other words, what SOUNDS right, often isn't. Politicians are certainly an example. - by Gary A Boye
I want to point out that the above is contrary to conventional selling wisdom....
The counterpoint to this is that while you may not get this sale, the knowledge of why the prospect prefers your competitor's product is very strategic. Shared with the right people in your company, it can have a dramatic impact upon future sales. - by DaveB
I think Rich's questions are perfectly valid, particularly if a sale is lost. If you have invested time in the process, the prospect owes you a debriefing. Many sales people overlook this opportunity to understand what they might have done better. Now and then, a customer will open the door to further discussions as a result of a debrief conversation. - by Clive Miller
Clive and Dave, Rich's context as I interpreted it, including the context of his follow-up post was not a situation where the sale was lost, but rather a stage of resistance common to selling. To reinforce the plusses of staying with the competitor I referred to as being against conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom also would be an appropriate description of the validity of a post mortem to determine why a sale was lost. In that case, Rich's questions would be wonderful. Rich however said that it "brings the focus and perception back to you the sales person in front of the client and not the competition." If you are talking about the advantages of the competition, then certainly the "focus" is not back to the salesperson.

There is a huge difference in context here. I responded to Rich's context. Your thoughts on post mortum I agree with.

The topic is instructive, but only if we are all in the same context. - by Gary A Boye
Gary is right I did not consider the sale lost.I do think Gary is not understanding my reply. I need to clarify my response and I appreciate the question especially if my reply is not understood.My questions cover my strengths and not the competions strengths. I am bringing the focus back to my strengths.My strength with warranty, service,service after the sale,tech support,product knowledge etc. and that is why I say I am sorry, we did not cover that? This is where we discuss the extras I do for the client that he or she may not receive from my competition. Every question I ask will be a strength of mine and not a weakness I have.That is why I ask multiple questions before the client can answer each question individually.I do not want an answer to each individual question and will not allow an answer for each.I give the client six or seven reasons to use me who cares if the competition covers one of the six.After I have stated my questions that are facts then the client has an opportunity to respond. - by rich34232
Hi all,

I've got a situation I wanted some advice on. I did a demo yesterday for a director at a large account who was the influencer, not the decision maker... (mistake, I know)

He's on the IT side of the project, and hence, is leaning towards our competitor because they had a slightly better look and feel, which he thought would be easier for user adoption. Of course, being the IT lead, this would be his chief concern.

However, our solution is just as functional if not more so, and less expensive-- something a line of business manager or financial officer would appreciate and put more weight on...

Okay, my question is, whats the best way to get in front of the right people? Has anyone here been able to turn something like this around?

I've thought of calling the department manager directly, and attempting to get face time with her, but didnt quite know how to approach it...

Any advice appreciated.

Thanks.
Let's go back to the original post where the member asked TWO questions which I highlighted in bold above.

Based on what he said, he obviously feels that he presented his solution to a person that valued the competitor's solution more for reasons that the member has shared with us. He also obviously feels that there might be others of authority within the organization who would see a greater value of HIS product IF he could present it to those people. The member wants advice on ways of approaching those people with success. He also asks, in his second question, if anyone here had success in this situation.

Yes--as the member states--he did not originally get in front of the decision maker and he admits his "mistake." In all fairness that mistake is not uncommon. I have been in that situation and I would guess others here also have. That "mistake" IS the post mortem of this situation, but he is not seeking to beat that to death. Nor does he seem willing to continue to engage a lame duck--rightfully so.

Someone here referred to strategy which, if we were to think of strategy in pure terms, would include ASSESSMENT. But there is no need to assess the virtues of the competitor in front of the wrong person as part of a selling process.

What can be assessed is the "risk" at this stage. I'm referrring to the risk of offending the IT guy by going over his head. Or the risk of him blocking an attempt to see the right people on your part.

To me the solution seems simple. YES--I have been there and done that. And here is my advice drawn from successful conversions in my experience:

You approach the RIGHT people from scratch and begin the process with them. The previous lame duck experience is moot.

Does it guarantee a sale--NO. But it does put you back on the right track to pursue one. - by Gary A Boye
If a customer is willing to keep talking, it isn't over. There is some point that hasn't been dealt with or some avenue that remains unexplored. If a customer is just being polite and it is truly over, then a debriefing is in order.

People do change their minds, given a good enough reason. - by Clive Miller
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