What To Do When The Prospect Blames You For Your Competitors’ Failures

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

What do you do when the prospect wants to hold you accountable for a problem caused by one of your competitors?  court hammerThe prospect had a bad experience with a company that sells the same product as you, and is convinced that doing business with you will have the same result.

Guilty By Association
Below is a way to handle the situation where the prospect finds you guilty just by associating in the same industry as the culprit.  Be forewarned however, the following technique requires that you really know your stuff.  This is for professionals only!

Two Possibilities
When a prospective customer has negative experiences in your field, there are only two avenues to approach the problem:

#1 – The situation is one that is common in the industry
#2 – The situation is not common or is an isolated incident

#1 – The situation is one that is common in the industry
As a professional sales person you should know everything there is to possibly know about your competition and your industry.  You should already know if there is a competitor who is supplying substandard products or services in your business.  Therefore, you should already be prepared to meet a prospect who has had such a bad experience and will use it as an objection.

If the problem is common knowledge, then you need to anticipate and overcome the objection early in the sales interaction.  If you wait until the prospect brings up the negative situation and associates you with it, it is too late.  You are then forced to defend yourself and bash the competition, both of which push you and the prospect further apart.

The Bad Widget Company
Let us assume that you sell widgets and as a true professional, you are aware that your competitor, Old Fashioned Widgets, uses an outdated manufacturing process and therefore has many unsatisfied customers.

If you wait until the prospect raises the issue and accuses you, you will have to defend yourself and consequently degrade your own industry.

Prospect:         “It looks good, but I bought some of those same types of widgets before from Old Fashioned, and they said the same thing you are saying.  I had nothing but costly problems.  I don’t think I want to go down that road again.”

Sales Person: “I understand, Mr Prospect.  But we are not Old Fashioned.  We use a more modern manufacturing process than Old Fashioned.  They are not as up to date as us, so many of their widgets fail…”

While this sounds like it makes sense, you are actually acknowledging the fact that there are widget companies that sell unsatisfactory products.  Therefore, the entire widget industry becomes suspect, and that includes you and your company.

Bring Up the History Early
Instead of waiting to defend against the accusation, raise the issue as a positive, early in your sales interaction.

Sales Person: “This is our plant, Mr Prospect.  Not only is it one of the largest in the industry, but it is the most modern.  We completely re-tooled so that we now use the silicon-based insertion rather than the outdated moving gears.  Some companies today still use the moving gears which cannot keep up to the stresses of today’s machines.   I have many clients who had problems with those older style widgets and I am glad I was able to help them.”

Prospect:         “Now that you mention it, I had problems with those widgets.  I bought some from Old Fashioned and you are right, they failed…”

In this way, you stay above the issue as an industry leader and avoid creating an adversarial atmosphere.   So, when there is history of the problem, address it early.

However,  what do you do when the prospect has had a bad experience that is unusual and that you never knew existed?  What do you do when the problem seems be an isolated incident?

Posting October 21, 2011:
What To Do When The Prospect Blames You, Part II

Happy Selling


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

450 sales questions free report

Originally published: 20 October, 2011

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