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You can have the best marketing campaign in the world, but when you hear the immortal words “we already work with your competition” then your heart will sink. In most cases this is the point at which, with true British politeness, we retreat… and perhaps, even apologise for bothering them. They go into the database as a “no” and we mark them up as “not to be bothered again”. But isn’t this actually a missed opportunity, grounded in a whole lot more understanding and knowledge than some of your other targets?

RainToday (a US consultancy and blog for professional services marketing and BD) recently conducted research into this subject. Their results were enlightening. They discovered that, unless organisations rank their existing service provider as 5 out of 5 (very satisfied), they are generally prepared to change provider. Furthermore, only 48% of buyers said (in the research) that they were “very satisfied.” This means that 52% of business surveyed would be willing to consider changing service provider. We should be seeing this as an opportunity in our own business development.

Now comes the life-changing realisation… It’s actually a good sign when a prospect says that they’re already working with a competitor. It means they have the need, they see the value, and they outsource this type of work. We already know that they want what you provide. All that’s left is to convince them that you are the one for the job.

So, why not try a different response to the comment “we already instruct one of your competitors”? Take it as your cue to start building the relationship and to plant the seed that might lead to their changing to you.

Consider these ways to respond:

1. “OK, that’s interesting to know. I’m curious, what do you think makes the relationship work so well?”

This is a relatively non-salesy, non-threatening way to get key insight into their client relationship. It gets the prospect talking. It shows that you’re interested in them, rather than yourself. And based on what they say, you can continue the conversation to uncover areas where there might be issues with the current provider or gaps in their services that you could fill.

2. “It sounds like you have things pretty well-covered at the moment. What do you want to have happen that’s not happening now?”

By asking that question you get the prospect thinking about change, thinking about areas where the current provider may not be meeting expectations. It also gets them thinking about what it might be like if they did change.

3. “What topics do you cover in your monthly meetings with your current provider?”

In most cases, the answer to that question is going to be, “We don’t have monthly meetings.” This gives you an opportunity to demonstrate how working with you is different. For example, you might say something like, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realise that. Here’s what we tend to cover in the monthly meetings we have with clients.”

4. “It’s great to hear that things are going well. Whilst I don’t want to tread on anyone’s toes, I do think it can, sometimes, be worthwhile having a second set of eyes to look over the documents. The next time you have something like this, I’d be happy to give it a quick review to see if we’d approach it any differently. If nothing else, you’ll get a different perspective and we may even be able to find you some additional savings.”

Make the prospect an offer he can’t refuse. When you offer to be a second set of eyes on a project it helps deepen the relationship and allows them to experience firsthand your service and expertise.

The suggestions above are just that… suggestions. It is for you to make them your own, fit them to your organisation and to your way of doing things. This should not detract from the fundamental principle, however… this situation presents an opportunity, rather than a brick wall. 52% of these prospects are going to look to change provider at some point soon. By building the relationship early, you give yourself the inside track and you will be the first one that they turn to when they decide that it’s time for a change.

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